Saturday 11 July 2015–I usually drink coffee daily. So what’s with A Very Good Coffee Day?
The headline captures today’s very good day, as well as any other good day, and in the long ago past, the good memory of a few days in Paris in 1968.
This morning we walked to Coffee on the Piazza at Ruthmere, a historic mansion about a mile from our house. We sat on the porch as two musicians played Bluegrass music with violin and guitar in the breezeway. Lovely was the coffee, music, setting and walk.
Recently I learned that the SHG on our coffee bean grinder stands for–Single Hopper Grinder. There’s no brand noted on the 40-year-old grinder. Via an on-line search, I found out our Type 120, Made in Italy, 75 gram machine could be considered a vintage electric coffee grinder, Vintage or not, it serves us well for the French Press we’re using momentarily while the self-grinding coffee maker languishes waiting for repairs.
Whenever we visit Ontario we pick up beans from Balzac’s Coffee Roasters. The company started roasting in Stratford and now does their small batch roasting in Stoney Creek, Ontario. They do it with the “eco-friendly Loring Smart Roaster, reducing energy consumption and green house gas emissions by up to 80% compared to a conventional Roaster.”
Why the name Balzac? Honore de Balzac, b. May 20, 1799, was a French novelist and playwright. And an avid coffee consumer. “Coffee is a great power in my life . . . it chases away sleep, and it gives us the capacity to engage a little longer in the exercise of our intellects,” he said in 1830.
T.S. Eliot said, “I have measured out my life with coffee spoons.” I did that spoon measure a few times, too. That was part of my life in Germany in 1964-65 and for a few days in Paris in 1968. I’ll just lift a spoon to the joy of coffee in Paris. When in Paris the thing to do is to have a café au lait at a sidewalk café. And did I ever. I had a good number of those double strength coffees, half of which was hot milk, with spoons of sugar, while watching and chatting at a number of cafes while hitch-hiking for a month after a student cultural exchange two-month work assignment in Cologne, Germany. Such coffee times nurtured body and soul. Flat white coffees today are reminiscent of the days of café au laits.
On our walk today we stopped at Elkhart Pubic Library. I happened to pick up a short volume by J.K. Rowling, Very Good Lives: The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination (Little, Brown and Company, 2015). It’s the text of her commencement address at Harvard in 2008.
She studied the Classics, Greek myths, languages and such. Seven years after graduation, Rowling said “I was the biggest failure I knew.” Her marriage had imploded, she was jobless, a single parent, “and as poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain without being homeless.” For a long time any light at the end of the tunnel was more hope than reality. She finally focused on “finishing the only work that mattered to me.” She had a daughter, an old typewriter and a big idea. In coming to terms with failure she found out she had a strong will, discipline and friends “above the price of rubies.”
Of imagination she says, “it is the power that enables us to empathize with humans whose experiences we have never shared.” That means identifying with the poor, the displaced, those without a voice and those tortured or imprisoned for their beliefs. At the end of her address she quoted the old Roman Seneca from her Classics studies, “As is a tale, so is life: not how long it is, but how good it is, is what matters.”
Stay Calm, Drink Tea, too. A very good day to you. -John