July 25, 2012
Why My Characters Drink Coffee
I had a few readers write to me and ask why my characters drink so much coffee. The first email I got, I brushed off. Maybe they’re not a coffee drinker, I thought. But then I got another, and yet one more. At that point I was forced to give it some thought, so here is the answer.
The Reason My Characters Drink Coffee is…
because everybody I knew while I was growing up drank a lot of coffee. My great Aunt Kate used to put coffee in my baby bottle when I was only two years old. We lived in the city in a small row house and Aunt Kate lived around the corner. She had emphysema and the walk up the hill made her cough. Whenever I heard that cough my feet started kicking, hands waving, and strange babbling sounds came from my mouth. Or so they told me.
From that moment on, the infusion of coffee never stopped. Our whole family loved coffee. My mother used to fix all the kids a cup with breakfast, from first day of school until we were old enough to do it ourselves (second day). And I don’t think I’ve missed a cup since. We lived next to my two aunts, and the one thing I remember is that no matter what time of day I walked into their house, something was cooking and coffee was always brewing. It didn’t matter if it was ten at night when I walked in, my Aunt Rose would say, “You want some coffee, Jibbo?”
When to Drink Coffee
Coffee, in all its variations—espresso, cappuccino, Americana—was the drink of choice at any occasion. At funerals it comforted people, at weddings it sobered them up. We drank coffee when we felt sad, and we drank it to celebrate.
Coffee was never a drink just to “wake up.” That would be sacrilegious. Morning coffee, in particular, was to be savored, and always with a cigarette. (That is still the number one thing I miss about not smoking.) There was usually an almost immediate second cup, then mid-morning coffee, followed hours later by that magnificent mid-afternoon cup. That one, too, was to be savored. Coffee at night was sometimes flavored with sambuca, and if we felt the need, an occasional “drop or two” of grappa.
When I had a heart problem back in the nineties, the doctor suggested I quit drinking coffee. Let me tell you, for almost a year my life was miserable—until I found a doctor who said that was nonsense. I did cut back to about four cups a day, but each cup gets four tablespoons of freshly-ground, heaven-sent coffee, and I savor each sip, down to the last swirl of residue in the bottom of the cup. (Always a glass cup) and it’s always made in a French press.
If you notice my characters drink a lot of coffee, and might even be picky about their coffee, blame it on my family; they instilled this fervor in me many years ago. I’m not about to change now, and neither are my characters. Not even if the doctor says so.
Ciao, and thanks for listening,
PS: My coffee of choice nowadays is from Turtle Creek Coffee Company in S.C. Not only do they produce fine beans, the owner, Mick Carnett, is a hell of a nice guy who cares about his customers. If you talk to Mick, tell him Giacomo said hi.