This week I came face-to-face with a genuine dilemma. I had several meetings across town and for some reason I miscalculated and ended up with a 2-1/2 hour gap between meetings. I hate to waste time, but if I drove back to my office, I would simply have to return to my meeting later and with the cost of gas these days, one cannot be too cautious.
You know gas is getting high when it costs more to fill up the car than the car is actually worth. The most valuable thing in my car is in my gas tank.
I remedied the situation by stopping in a small coffee shop for a cup of Joe. As far as I am concerned, there is no bad time to have a cup of coffee, in spite of the price. I ordered my coffee and when the waitress brought it, I began to think about coffee. Why did God give us coffee?
Then my mind went back to my grandfather, whose greatest gift to me was a love of coffee. Nobody loved coffee more. I remember one of his favorite quotes, “You can always tell a man by the coffee he drinks.”
Anathema to my grandfather was the idea of instant coffee. No man, in his opinion, would ever drink anything of the kind. “If a man would drink instant coffee,” my grandfather perked, “there’s no telling what else he would do. Never trust a man who drinks instant coffee.”
Making coffee was an art form to my grandfather. There was a right way and a wrong way to make coffee, and he always insisted on the right way. Of course, the right way was his way.
In grandfather’s kitchen was an old wood-burning cook stove. My grandmother cooked meals on this ancient apparatus for more than 50 years. On this old-fashioned stove, my grandfather brewed his famous mud broth. He never allowed my grandmother to make the brew; it was his job, which he took seriously.
Once for his birthday, we all chipped in and bought him an electric coffee pot. I had never seen my grandfather so mad. When he saw what it was, he would not even take it out of the box.
He had strong ideas about coffee and how it should be brewed and woe be to the person who contradicted his ideas.
Grandfather always kept a fire in the old wood cook stove and on the back of the stove he kept his coffee pot, a large 2-gallon pot – one of those old-fashioned percolators long since gone out of style. The coffee was always on, and no matter when you stopped in to see him, he always had “fresh” coffee brewing.
When I say, “fresh,” I need to explain. Actually, the coffee was only fresh on Sunday. On Saturday night, he routinely emptied the coffee pot and prepared fresh coffee for Sunday morning.
He had an old coffee grinder and ground the coffee beans on Saturday night. He put some other things in the coffee, I have never figured out what. One thing I know he put in was a crushed eggshell. What it did to his coffee, I have no idea but grandfather was sure it was an important ingredient.
The freshly ground coffee beans were put in, the pot filled with fresh water and set on the back of the stove to slowly perk. This coffee would last the entire week. The coffee was so strong on Sunday that if it did not wake you in the morning, you were dead.
In fact, Cousin Ernie died on a Sunday afternoon, so my grandfather tells the story, and one sip of his black coffee roused him and he lived seven more years, which was unfortunate for grandfather, as he had to support him.
Before retiring each evening my grandfather took care of his coffee. He would freshly grind a few coffee beans, sprinkle it on top of the old coffee grounds and then add a newly crushed eggshell. Then he would refill the coffee pot with water.
His coffee percolated 24/7 and by Saturday it was so strong you needed a half-cup of sugar just to drink one cup. It was thick enough to use as syrup on your pancakes, but so strong, it dissolved your pancakes before you could eat them.
My grandmother once tried washing the coffee pot. When my grandfather saw her, he became furious, “Never wash that coffee pot,” he spouted, “you’ll ruin its character and a coffee pot needs a lot of character to make good coffee.”
When my grandfather died, I looked at his old black coffee pot and discovered two things. One, the original color was blue. And two, although it was originally a 2-gallon pot, it only could take three quarts of water. The “character,” so important to my grandfather, had built up so much over the years its capacity was diminished.