Tuesday, September 29, 2015

International Coffee Day: How I Came to Drink Coffee

In celebration of International Coffee Day, for which I have a pot brewing as I write, I shall tell the tale of how I came to be a coffee drinker.

When I was about 10 years old, around 1957, I spent a couple weeks of the summer at Camp Weed, the campground of the Episcopal Diocese of Florida.  It was located in the area called "The Big Bend," where the panhandle of the state takes a bend to join the peninsula.  The camp was right on the Gulf of Mexico, and it could be magical to get up in the morning for our morning prayer and see the Gulf mirror-smooth, reflecting the sky so that we could not tell where the horizon actually was.

In the mess hall there, some of the kids drank coffee.  It had been a stretch in my family to allow me, at 10, to drink iced tea because of the caffeine content. My mother drank coffee, but only in the morning.  After high noon, she did not drink it because she said it kept her awake at night if she did. 

After breakfast one morning, when everyone else had cleared out, I decided I would try some coffee, just to see what it was like.  I tried it black.  I tried it with sugar.  I tried it with cream and sugar.  It was awful.  I decided I never would bother with it because I did not like it.

Fast-forward to the late 1970s, when I was in the Coast Guard Reserve.  It was 1979, I believe, and we were having a change of command ceremony on the open wharf at the Mayport, Florida, Coast Guard Station, located near the mouth of the St. Johns River.  It was January.  It was raining.  It was cold.  Yes, it does get cold in Florida, certainly in the part where I live, the northeast corner.  It has been down as low as 11 degrees in my now home county of Clay in my lifetime.

I was a Yeoman Second Class at the time, and we enlisted folk were standing in formation at parade rest (feet apart, arms behind the back, hands clasped one over the other).  We were in our dress uniforms, but no additonal protection from the wind and rain.  We were cold.  We were wet.  We were some miserable sailors.  And the officers could not get their you-know-what together, and we waited, and waited, and waited.  It was something like 45 minutes, at parade rest, in the cold and wind and rain. 

The officers -- including my husband -- were under cover.  They were sitting down.  They were wearing their nice warm bridge coats (wool overcoats).  Finally, they got themselves together and the ceremony was conducted.  At least the outgoing and incoming commanding officers made very brief remarks.

When the call of "Dis-MISSED!" came, we all broke formation and ran for the mess hall.  We burst into the place and demanded, "Where's the coffee?"

Nothing ever tasted as good as that cup of nice hot coffee on that cold, blustery day.  It was pure heaven.

Now, let me tell you about Coast Guard coffee.  It has a reputation among the sea services.  It is strong stuff.  Even the Navy says that when the Coast Guard runs out of fuel for our ships, we run them on our coffee.  We use it to swab the decks, as a powerful cleaner.  I once heard a Florida Army National Guard lieutenant colonel say he could only take one cup of Coast Guard coffee per year.  (Wuss!)

Because her parents both drink and brew Coast Guard coffee, and that is how she learned to make it, our younger daughter has been banned from making the coffee in three different workplaces!

Maybe the reason I didn't like the coffee at Camp Weed was that it was too weak.  I was destined to drink Coast Guard coffee.

So, excuse me, but my coffee is ready.

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