March 18, 2013

A Canuck in Kantuck: Silver lining in my coffee cup

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — One of the important ways my life has changed in the past seven weeks has to do with what I drink in the morning. Despite the stress of my husband’s illness, no, it isn’t a shot of tequila (yet) and, no, it isn’t freshly-squeezed health juice involving celery and beet root. Instead, it’s a much-celebrated beverage whose celebration, up until now, didn’t involve me.

It involves, yes, coffee.

Having lived 35 years of my life not drinking the stuff, I have had a long education in how much people adore their cup of Joe. For I think it’s especially when you don’t drink coffee that you notice just how much people love to talk about it, whether that means sharing where they got their failsafe, no-drip insulated portable coffee mug, how many cups they drink a day, how late they can get away with drinking a cup and still sleep at night, or if I’ve tried it with almond milk, Coffee-Mate creamy chocolate creamer or International Delight French vanilla.

“I don’t drink coffee,” I’ll respond.

“Oh,” they’ll say, as if I’ve just told them my dog died. “I’m sorry.”

My husband and mom especially are avid coffee drinkers, and when we’re all on our annual ski trip together, they truly bond as my mom shakily teases out a filter while William waits to scoop out the grounds. It’s the first thing they must do upon waking, and when they bring that first morning cup to their lips, it’s as if they’ve been waiting all night for that first sip.

My best friend Kristin has also long been a passionate coffee aficionado, and when we traveled Greece and Italy together nine years ago, we had to get her a cup before we headed out sight-seeing for the day or she would get a monster headache she couldn’t shake. So we’d sit at one of the tiny, wobbly bistro tables on the sidewalk and watch the Grecians and Italians go by, Kristin luxuriating in her cup of espresso, me sipping on a small glass of questionable European tap water.

But not so anymore.

My husband’s illness has required that he drink decaf, and so for the past seven weeks, I’ve been heading to Baxter’s to get him half a pound ground up according to his French press specifications. It’s the caffeine in coffee, not the flavor, that has always been the problem for me. I suppose I’m either overly sensitive or slightly allergic because the minute I ingest it, I get ridiculously happy, then ridiculously wired, then slightly nauseated, then nauseated, then ridiculously awake — for hour upon hour. As a result, I can’t drink pop, unsweetened ice tea or anything pertaining to the coffee bean.

But since he’s been sick, my husband has been forced to have decaf, and, in turn, encouraged me to try it. He also finally convinced me to try Lactaid to help with my minor lactose intolerance issues. So after popping one of those — they actually taste like ice cream cones — he poured me a cup and added a splash of milk. What a delight! I was instantly hooked, and promptly informed Kristin I was the newest member of the coffee club.

I’ve realized that drinking coffee is just not like drinking any other kind of beverage. It doesn’t quench your thirst, but you don’t really care that it doesn’t. It’s water based, but it’s much, much more than just flavored water. Sure, it might not have the party of a cocktail, but it doesn’t have any of the guilt, calories or regret either. It truly feels like something else is in that cup — a little slice of time that’s been reserved just for sipping and contemplating, sipping and contemplating, so much so that you really, truly do get a coffee break. It doesn’t last long — the temperature has to be just right or, at least for me, coffee becomes insipid. But for that moment things seem just about perfect.

So another silver lining comes out of this tough time. I’ve been collecting them and putting them in my jewelry box for safekeeping. I’m glad to add another one —especially one I can enjoy every day.


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Now that school is out, what are your family’s summer vacation plans?

A. No major plans. We will probably hang out around Laurel County.
B. Going to the beach!
C. Kentucky has a lot of wonderful state parks, and we plan to visit a few and enjoy quality family time.
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