OK, but first…


You probably think I’m shallow just because I get my philosophy from bumper stickers and country-western songs. However, I also get my wisdom from slogans printed on T-shirts. Here’s something I saw on a shirt recently: “OK, but first, coffee.”

Well, those were the words, at least, but I’m going from memory and the punctuation probably reflects my fetish for commas.

Anyway, if coffee comes first, then what comes second is shopping for an expensive new coffee maker. The last generation of expensive new coffee makers didn’t seem to last very long. What the generations have in common is that the proprietary breed of coffee pods they digest is, cost-wise, the caffeinated version of caviar.

Sometimes it’s not too expensive if addressed with careful shopping, but having to shop carefully for coffee isn’t something I want to devote any attention to.

And attention is necessary for these things. For example, KDKA-TV (Pittsburgh) swabbed the inside of some coffee makers and sent the samples to a lab. In a 2015 report they said that some of the coffee makers harbored bacteria and mold. The machines require a cleaning regimen to keep fit.

One day, during a blackout, when I had to fortify myself with coffee to confront the rigors of the situation, I saw my expensive coffee machine sitting, darkened and lifeless, on the counter. You might ask where my emergency generator was. It was in the back of my truck. You might ask why I didn’t hook it up to the home power buss.

Well, OK. I’ll do that. But first, coffee. And, not that I get cranky when I need coffee, but if I want any more suggestions from you about the generator situation, I’ll ask, OK?

Anyway, I knew of a Korean-owned sari-sari store that would be open. I drove there and bought a jar of Folgers instant coffee. I drove back to the homestead, heated a canteen-cup of water camping-style, and I’ve pretty much been drinking Folgers instant ever since.

I say “pretty much” because, now that I’ve cast my lot with instant, I recently decided to test another well-known brand, Nescafé.

I wanted to compare these two brands, Folgers and Nescafé, but I’m too lazy to concoct any sort of methodical approach for that. Besides, what’s the point? I’m happy with both brands.

My old impressions of instant coffee weren’t very good, but there was an element of self-fulfilling prophecy there. For example, I used to buy instant coffee for camping trips. Since I didn’t regard the product as an appealing proposition to begin with, I’d buy the cheapest jars of the stuff. Some jars cost less than $1. I would have been better off peeling off the label and boiling that up. It never occurred to me that better coffee would be, well, better.

Most of my friends are coffee hounds. They, like me, drink the stuff clean, not loaded up with sugar and cream. As much as they like a simple cup of coffee, though, none of them regard instant coffee as a legitimate product. Oh, how déclassé, they sniff. What’s next, polyester? Doubts are being expressed about my suitability for polite company.

So I’ll tell you a couple of things that I won’t bother to tell those snobs. For one thing, instant coffee can be made stronger or weaker on the whim of the moment, with a continuous and infinite array of intermediate strengths, just by adding more coffee grounds or more water. I’ve never had a coffee maker that could do that on a cup-by-cup basis.

And, for another thing, we coffee hounds have a knack for drinking a cup halfway down, setting it aside to tend something, and then when we finally pick it up again it’s cold and unappealing. Instead of making a new cup, though, or having to draw a cup from a funky carafe that’s been boiling itself into tar on a burner, with instant you can just add a little bit of coffee and a little more hot water and, presto, you’re back in business.

Another benefit: I can leave a jar of instant on my desk and nobody will mess with it. The coffee pods for the machine were, by contrast, always being filched. Instant coffee conveys some sort of retro mystery, like some sort of bronze and intricate Middle Ages astronomical sighting device. It might be intriguing from a safe distance, but who knows what will happen if you pick it up, or, god forbid, if you wind up confronting the sort of eccentric that would own and operate such a thing?

Well, that’s all I’ve got to say about coffee. I guess you’d like to talk about the generator now, right? I thought so. Unfortunately, I have to keep an appointment with my tailor. He’s in Kowloon. Does anybody know how to say “leisure suit” in Cantonese?

Ed Stephens Jr. | Special to the Saipan Tribune
Visit Ed Stephens Jr. at EdStephensJr.com. His column runs every Friday.

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