How much do we really like coffee? As a devout daily drinker of two-plus cups of coffee, sometimes two-plus thermos-fulls, I must say it is my favorite thing - I clutch each Styrofoam vessel as if it were my one object of control, my last hope for a world gone awry. It’s delicious, it’s wonderful, but yet, truly, it doesn’t taste that good.
There is more behind our everyday fascination with coffee than the joy it brings with its questionable taste. Granted, I’ve had many cups of genuinely good coffee, but for every good cup, I can count a time I ordered a bad one and drank it anyway, with just as much ardor.
Europeans, as we are tired of hearing, have perfected the art of eating a meal. Americans, they say, don’t know how to eat! Rushing our food, we eat only to consume. We eat alone, we eat standing up, and we eat large portions. The French, of course, know how to savor a meal. They gather together and make a celebration out of every last tiny portion of bread and cheese, stretching out the lunch hour to incredible proportions, the likes of which we can only dream.
Americans have slowly cultured and developed a counterpoint - Starbucks! We may scarf our atrocious Big Macs in five minutes flat, but the average American could spend three and a half hours drinking or poking at a 16-ounce cup of coffee with friends. Not only Starbucks, but hundreds of different coffeeshops share with us the “art” of drinking coffee. As Tom Hanks once said, in one of those movies with Meg Ryan, ordering a cup of coffee can make even the most indecisive person feel like a CEO of deliberation. There are so many choices!
In my humble, rural Ohio hometown, I go everywhere for my coffee - venues ranging from Cool Beans Coffee, to Casa Fiesta, a Mexican restaurant, to Burger King, which, incidentally, pours some of the best coffee I’ve ever had. I may eat lunch alone, skip lunch, or eat a bagel obnoxiously while I walk, getting crumbs all over my face, but I definitely savor my coffee.
I bet even the best European caf?, catering to patrons who regularly indulge in two-hour lunch breaks, doesn’t have a Scrabble board like Seattle’s, a coffee shop in Wooster, Ohio, that also offers live music on the weekends and free wireless Internet 24 hours a day. What better incentive to linger?
Anyone who visits our proud city of Washington, D.C., must bow to the might of coffee. Even the Library of Congress has a cappuccino bar in the tunnel between its buildings, in a sort of ultimate Kramer Books/Barnes & Noble fashion.
Europeans would laugh if we attempted to lay claim to coffee - after all, I think coffee originated in Austria. But, the concept has taken on sweeping connotation in our culture: a coffee break has universal appeal. Europeans eat long meals, but Americans have patented the world’s longest cup of coffee.
In conclusion, not many of us really like coffee. But no one can resist an invitation to “go out for some coffee.” Everyone has to relax sometime. Even the most hyped caffeine addict needs a place of calm.
Melinda C. Hall is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences and The Eagle’s assistant editor of Campus News.