(If you have never read “Breakfast Smoothies” you might want to read the short introductory page. Explanations about the most blatant lies usually follow the essay.)
“I know what you mean,” said Bob. “With customer support overseas, and pruners that don’t last one season, and air conditioning units that need service every four months, and strawberries that don’t last three days in the refrigerator.”
“And the appliance repair guys are making a fortune on appliance insurance – feeding on our fears of breakdown,” added Ben.
“I’m telling you, the world is not getting any better,” continued Erica.
Allow me to present the Better Days Breakfast Smoothies I said. I set them on the table in front of the group. Things are actually getting better all the time. Lots of things are better than they used to be, and I’m not just talking nostalgia, either.
“Nostalgia is better than it was?” said Ben.
“Name something that’s better than long ago,” demanded Erica. She softened a little, “I mean besides Alicia’s smoothies.”
“Coffee? Like, the coffee that you don’t serve here for breakfast?” asked Bob.
Ignoring him, I continued. And I don’t just mean just like Starbucks or Inteligentia which are clearly better than the coffee shops of 20 years ago; but the coffee you make at home, too.
“I know I’m going to be sorry that I asked,” said Bob. “But how do you mean?”
Well right now in my kitchen I can grind my own beans and make coffee in a drip maker or with a French press.
“You have a French press?” said Ben.
“What’s a French press?” asked Erica.
People even have espresso machines, right in their own home.
“But we’re talking ‘better’ here,” said Bob. “Better than what?”
Perked, I said.
“Perked?” the group looked at one another.
They continued to look puzzled.
I explained. The perked coffee that got us through the 60’s and Nixon. The perked coffee that sustained us through a depression, two world wars, and prohibition. Now that I think about it, perked coffee might be the cause of all of the previous generations problems.
“Thankfully he didn’t say ‘our’ generation,” said Ben to the group.
I’ll tell you why it was so bad.
You put ground coffee into this little metal basket that you never could completely clean and slid it onto this straw-like device. Do you think anyone ever cleaned the inside of that? Then you slid that contraption into a pot filled with water. Then you closed it with a top with a little glass dome-like thinger that was always getting lost.
And then you put it on the stove (gas, electric, wood, coal, whatever) on as high as it would go until it started perking. Then, right away, you had to turn it down to where it would not boil over but would continue to perk. Try getting that right.
Getting it wrong either way, you were usually screwed. If you didn’t turn it down enough it would boil over and you had yourself a first-class hot mess on the stove. And if you turned it down too much, the water would just sit there simmering until you noticed it. Imagine coming back in five minutes and pouring hot water.
Then, if you got it perking right, you had to time it for the strength you wanted and then remember to turn it off. Did you ever perk coffee for 30 minutes?
“I remember perking it until the pot was dry,” said Ben.
And what if you did everything perfectly. You weren’t boiling water in that pot. After the first perk, you were boiling coffee. Over and over again. Today the coffee experts tell us that after you make the coffee, you aren’t supposed to boil it again. It destroys the flavor.
“Right,” said Ben. “No wonder everyone was sour during the depression and those wars. Their coffee was difficult to make and it tasted terrible.”
No, I said, things are much better now. Look at how happy we all are.
“Well,” said Bob getting up. “Thank you for that dissertation. Who’s for Starbucks?”