... memories of a special brew
When I was about twelve years old, during the second World War, I remember standing in a long line near a little neighborhood store that had COFFEE. I am not sure if it was rationed then, but I know that it was in short supply and it was important that my mother have her coffee so I stood in line for several hours as I smelled the coffee being ground at this very special store. That is all they sold. No special brews, just brown roasted coffee beans that were ground for you as you waited your turn. Someone had recited a poem some time that year that began, "Why is it that the poet tells so little of the taste of smell, the smell of coffee freshly ground?" And those lines kept going through my head as I stood in line awaiting my turn for my limited share of that special powder.
There was something about the kitchen table and a pot of coffee that seemed to be like a magnet.
There always seemed to be some one sharing with my mother and father at the kitchen table sipping on coffee. There was a special little burner on the back of her gas stove just the size of a coffee pot. When the pot was emptied, another was prepared and placed back on the burner. Relatives came from all over the city to gather in our kitchen for a cup of coffee and perhaps piece of pie or cake, depending what she had enough sugar to bake.
Saturday mornings, my cousin who was a truck driver, stopped at our house for his cup of coffee before making his daily deliveries. Every one seemed to drink the coffee with milk and sugar. My mother always had an open can of evaporated milk in the refrigerator. My aunt would measure out one teaspoon of this precious evaporated milk to add to her coffee. Mom and dad would just pour and stir until it looked like the color they wanted to drink.
That's when the sugar was rationed. Each member of our household had his own sugar bowl with its 1/2 cup of sugar for the month in it. Since I didn't drink coffee and very rarely ate cereal, my sugar was used for the guests, or if it was left over at the end of the month it was used for cookies to be mailed to my brother in the Navy. My first taste of coffee was close to the end of the war. I was fifteen years old. My brother's ship was sunk in the Atlantic by a German torpedo and he had been rescued and had gotten a special leave until he could be reassigned to another aircraft carrier. It was three in the morning when he arrived at the house. All of us gathered around the kitchen table to hear his stories of the ship and the rescue. I was more interested in the fact that I was allowed to finally have a cup of coffee.
The coffee was always made in a percolator. There is still something very special about perked coffee. One of my most precious wedding presents was an electric percolator. My mother had given me a special alarm clock for my birthday one year that had an outlet in the back of it. I could plug my radio into the clock and when I set the alarm to go off it automatically turned on the radio. Well, I plugged my electric coffee pot into that little alarm clock and we were awakened every morning by the smell of freshly brewed coffee. Heaven on earth.
So lets have another cup of coffee and let's have another piece of pie!
February 2, 2007