A cup of Joe

I was at the bulk store getting flavoured coffee beans for a friend this week and I used the grinder as she doesn’t have one.

As I stood there listening to the whir of the machine, I was transported back to my childhood and Saturday morning trips to the grocery store.

I used to love grinding the coffee for my mom, making sure to pull the “cleaning lever” to get every last bit of coffee in the bag.

It was a real trick to learn how to close those fold-over bags, too. A rite of passage, you might say, just like drinking the stuff.

Those childhood memories go back way before I drank coffee, but I remember the importance of it. My parents didn’t have an automatic coffee maker; my dad swore by his “poikie,” an Icelandic tradition.

It was a sort of sock that hung from skewers in the glass carafe with the grounds in it. He always said it made the best coffee.

This contraption was the forerunner to today’s artisanal pour-over coffee, buy my mom always thought it suspicious to use an old sock for making coffee. She did say it was good coffee though, and she seemed to enjoy the quiet pause she got while making it.

My dad had his coffee with breakfast, but my mom was at home when we were little. Needless to say, her coffee was often cold before she drank it all, what with loads of laundry, cleaning, cooking and other household work.

She drank it though and seemed to enjoy it even at room temperature. Those were the days before travel mugs and Keurig pods.

I didn’t think much of coffee until I travelled to Europe after high school. Then, I learned how cool it was.

In France, while on a Contiki tour, my new best friend and I took it as a challenge to find the most expensive coffee on an evening out in the Left Bank.

We sipped our café au lait with cool satisfaction as we enjoyed watching the world go by from our prime location on the terrace. (That gal is still a dear friend and we still treat ourselves at decadent cafés every time we see each other.)

I have commented often on the culture surrounding certain foods and coffee is one of the most historic examples. What I find most interesting though is how a simple hot beverage can become such an icon even when there is no pomp and ceremony to the occasion.

Look at Tim Hortons. Their advertising campaigns illustrate my point perfectly - a cup of Timmy’s coffee is what makes the hockey practice or fishing trip or other simple activity a special moment.

How did that happen?

Perhaps the cachet of coffee is its combination of simplicity and complicated ritual all wrapped into one cup. It has become a ubiquitous beverage in our lives sometimes through necessity than choice.

Did you know that the origin of the “cup of Joe” expression comes from the days of the First World War, and it was originally meant as an insult?

Josephus Daniels was secretary of the Navy from 1913-1921. He wanted to raise the moral standards of the forces, so he implemented new rules that included increasing chaplains and banning all alcohol on bases.

As an alternative, naval stewards began ordering more coffee as a replacement. The phrase “having a cup of Joe” was a shortening of the original disparaging comment by many of the troops: “having a cup of Joseph Daniels.”

Drinking coffee can be comforting, contemplative or energizing – sometimes it’s all of those. The bitter taste is certainly more of an attraction to adults, and perhaps that is especially fitting when one considers the responsibility associated with having a cup.

Whether it’s taking in the simple joy of a fishing trip or hockey practice or participating in the more complicated philosophical discussions that occur in coffee houses around the globe, there is a solemn nature to these moments.

So, the next time you grab your “double-double” or your “extra-hot half-caf soy latte,” stand tall and breathe deep.

You are representing the grown-ups, those people that deserve a jolt (and maybe a bit of foam and a caramel swirl) because they are running the world.

It’s busy, important work and it deserves a reward.

More Happy Gourmand articles

About the Author

Kristin Peturson-Laprise is a customer experience specialist by trade, which means she is someone passionate about people having a good time. 

Her company, Wow Service Mentor, helps businesses enhance their customer experience through hands-on training, service programs, and special event coordination.

Kristin enjoys her own experiences too, and that is what she writes about in this column. She and her husband Martin Laprise (also known as Chef Martin, of The Chef Instead) love to share their passion for food and entertaining.  

Kristin says:

"Wikipedia lists a gourmand as a person who takes great pleasure in food. I have taken the concept of gourmandise, or enjoying something to the fullest, in all parts of my life. I love to grow and cook food, and I loved wine enough to become a Sommelier. I call a meal a success when I can convey that 'sense of place' from where the food has come . . . the French call that terroir, but I just call it the full experience. It might mean tasting the flavours of my own garden, or transporting everyone at the table to a faraway place, reminiscent of travels or dreams we have had."


E-mail Kristin at:  [email protected]

Check out her website here:  www.wowservicementor.com


The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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