Thursday, February 17, 2011


There's something I love about the taste of bad coffee.

It takes me back to places and situations that I remember fondly.  My aunts telling stories around my grandmother's kitchen table while my cousins and I play rummy with my grandmother.  Or late nights spent at the Truck Stop (an all night diner on I-70) with Charlene, doing homework and chatting with the third-shift waitress.  Or brunches at Mark's Midtown Coney Island off of US-23, where  my dad and I can sit and talk for as long as they'll keep filling our cups.

I don't think of meatloaf or fried chicken as comfort food, though they are at the top of the list for "comfort food, definition."  My father's comfort food is mashed potatoes.  For me it's bad coffee -- not truly crappy coffee, not watery coffee, or burnt coffee too long on the hot plate, or the thick stuff, or the kind that's so acidic it eats at your gut the moment you drink it.  Bad coffee, well made, still fresh, but out of a generic can of grounds.  Unremarkable in all other ways.  I love that kind of coffee.  I know where I stand with that kind of coffee.

None of the pretension is there.  None of the nervousness that comes with dealing with unfamiliar jargon and insider knowledge.  I'm comfortable with baristas -- I was one for a while -- and I usually understand them even when they use a specific brand's dialect.  Despite my fluency, their language is not my mother tongue.  Bad coffee is my mother tongue.

Top image by Steve Snodgrass, bottom image by Mark Heard.

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