I love coffee
And sometimes I hate it
Sometimes it scares me
And sometimes I crave it
It’s a complicated relationship and in the end, my love for those little organic brown beans, home-ground in my grinder, poured into my french press to steep for 4 minutes, then mixed with agave and soy milk, wins. The love you take, is equal to the coffee you make.
As a mom who is health conscious about her own health and the health of her family, I am always questioning, redefining and rediscovering new ideas about whether things are good for us. And things change. Soy, dairy, butter, wine. My Chinese acupuncturist just told me that butter can help lower your cholesterol? Theories on health and food seem to change everyday so sometimes you’ve got to trust your instincts and come up with unique and individualized methods for living your life.
1. Surprising my dad when I was 5 or 6 by making him Folgers Instant coffee in a cup. It seemed like magical astronaut food, the way it sparkled then dissolved, and when I tasted it, I thought it was totally disgusting. He drank it black, and like, 10 cups a day. Pisces.
2. Coffee hard candy – when I was a kid, there were a few random instances where I ate wrapped candies that were filed with a chocolaty inside – a kind of fudgy center that I thought was DIVINE. That was my first magical experience with the flavor of coffee, and perhaps caffeine, though I didn’t know about the effects of caffeine back then.
3. Cutting class in high school (Pali High) and hanging out at Mort’s with my girl friends, getting refills and adding non-fat milk and sweet ‘n low, which sounds absolutely dreadful to me now. Independence.
4. Cafe Roma. It was THE place to have coffee when I was going to U.C. Berkeley. It was near the music department (Morrison) and I would go to Roma, order a cappuccino while classical music played and I read Machiavelli and Virginia Wolfe. Oh how cosmopolitan I felt, so smart, so free and cultured. And here, for the first time, the coffee was GOOD.
5. Europe – The Cafe Culture Continues. To sit on a Greek island, drinking a frappe, having a handsome Greek man whip it up for me. To sketch in my book and sip an espresso in Central Italy, having an attractive Italian lawyer approach and offer me a cigarette. To devour the Prado in Madrid and then to fervently discuss Picasso’s work over a Café con leche. Coffee is art, romance, intellectualism language, travel, the world.
6. Waiting tables. Ugh – delivering coffee is the cardio of any breakfast joint restaurant waitperson. So many re-fills. When I was waiting tables at First National in the Palisades, oh how the customers kept me on my toes with their never-ending demands for refills. I even wrote a song about it… one of my earliest which I will have to record sometime soon. From “Waitress”:
I don’t want to me your waitress
You may think that I am rather bold
Don’t you know I couldn’t really careless
If your cups of coffee’s gettin’ cold*
7. And then there is that kind of horrid coffee you get at the auto body shop, the kind that’s been sitting in a put 1/4 full for 7 hours. People come in and add some powdered white mixture and a few sugar packets. This is almost a non-coffee coffee. It’s like some kind of anti-matter that keeps people in motion with none of the ceremony and glamour of the cafe culture.
And here I am about to turn 48 and evaluating my life and my health on a daily basis. So many conflicting reports. Coffee (and caffeine) does it cause cancer? Save you from cancer? It’s dehydrating AND has anti-oxidants. It’s good for the brain, yet can wire you too. According to Slate:
“Caffeine at doses of 65 mg or more can help relieve headaches, but habitual caffeine use can spur chronic headaches, too. Coffee makes you more alert, but it can also provoke insomnia, anxiety, and even tremors at high doses. Regular drinkers seem to have a decreased risk of developing diabetes, but for anyone who already has the disease, a hefty cup of coffee can make things worse. Up to three cups of coffee per day may slightly lower the risk of heart attack, but drinking a large dose might also trigger a heart attack if you’re already at risk.”
My 3 Part Coffee System
I have come up with a system that keeps the allure and romance in my coffee. I notice that I have three kinds of coffee in my life. “Recreational Coffee” is the coffee I have on a rainy sunday morning with the New York Times Crossword. It’s the coffee I drink while taking a break from ice skating in San Fransisco’s Union Square or the coffee my friend Tom and I drink at Maxwell’s in Venice when we are catching up and enjoying some intense coffee talk.
Then there is “Working Coffee”. That the coffee I press when I am setting out to pay bills, animate a video or mix a song. It’s a thinking helper, a friend while I am working and a tool to keep me focused and alert.
And finally there’s “Rocket Fuel” coffee. That’s the extra cup I really don’t need, the one that wires, that propels me too far, the one that dries me out and the one I drink instead of eating some string cheese and an apple when I need some energy.
The trick is to learn just how far I want to propell myself and to identify which kind of coffee I am having. Labeling things and being present with what I am ingesting, feeling and/or doing is the key for me to stay healthy and grounded.
Like other things in life (for me… chocolate and ice cream) coffee is great and yummy when I start, and the trick is knowing when to stop. There’s the rub. For me, drinking too much coffee strips away the magic qualities of coffee and then it’s a downhill crash.
So here’s my plan. I take breaks from coffee! I use it in cycles, monitor it, appreciate it and acknowledge when the “Recreational Coffee” has become “Working Coffee” and when the “Working Coffee” has turned into “Rocket Fuel”.
And perhaps coffee is different for women than for men. Women roll in cycles, cycles of the moon, hormonal cycles. Maybe that’s the best way for us to use and enjoy coffee in a lovely and healthy way. As a mom, I can over-extend like crazy and coffee can seem to me like a bad drug, pushing me beyond my limits. So, herb tea, green tea, hot apple cider, hot water with lemon and honey, coconut water, WATER…I drink them all and by drinking them all, I save a special place in my heart and protect my very romantic and magical relationship with COFFEE.
“In order to grow old, you have to experience everything, but in moderation.”
Cuban Musician – Compay Segundo (lived to 97 years old)