Sunday, December 07, 2008

For the past couple of years I have tried to do most of my Christmas shopping on line to avoid the crowds. I do have to venture out for a few things with my spouse. We usually go to the upscale Crate and Barrel store in Austin to buy several cans of ginger cookies for our neighbors. My spouse’s grandmother and mother used to make ginger cookies that were terrific, but that is a monumental task, so we now do the next best thing and buy them. I’m pretty sure those two ladies are in heaven, and if I am lucky enough to go there I hope they are still making the ginger cookies at Christmas. It’s worth the effort to go to heaven to sample them again.

The cookies are the only thing I can afford in the Crate and Barrel place. They have a lot of stuff to cook with but the price for everything is sky high. There are mostly preppy looking people who are buying this stuff and I really feel out of place. I did look around while the clerk was getting our cookies and I was most impressed with all the gadgets to make coffee. One of the fancy machines cost $1,799.99. I couldn’t believe it. This was not a piece of equipment for commercial use. It’s intended to be used in the home, but it would take an engineer to operate the device. The controls look like the cockpit of a jet plane. Coffee can be brewed using various pressures resulting in just the desired strength. There are all sorts of buttons from setting the time of operation to doing the kids math homework. I guess it makes espresso, which is what coffee connoisseurs prefer because the flavor is greatly enhanced when hot water is forced through finely ground coffee. This gives the drinker a highly concentrated brew that captures more of the complete flavor of the coffee bean. With the price of that apparatus I would hope it would give the drinker the essence of pure gold.

With an expensive coffee maker like that you wouldn’t dare use some of the brands found in the grocery store. I’m sure the machine performs best with exotic flavors such as Jamaican Blue that cost $50 a pound and is the one favored by James Bond.

I learned to drink coffee that was made by boiling water in a pot that contained the ground coffee. This could be done over a campfire or a wood stove. You would wait a little while until the coffee settled to the bottom of the pot before pouring a cup. When I was a kid we also used a percolator that works by boiling the water in a special pot that has a little metal container full of holes at the top. The container is supported by a long metal stem extending to the bottom of the pot. The water boils up and spills into the container with the coffee and seeps through to give the resultant brew. There is a little glass window at the top so you can see the water boiling up. Then there is the drip method we currently use that has a little porous basket containing a filter. Boiling water flows through this filter and drips into a pot below. The two methods are basically the same, just pouring boiling water through ground coffee and catching the liquid in an awaiting pot.

There are many ways to make coffee and it is an art. Steaming milk can be added to give a mixture called cappuccino. There are special devices to make this stuff or you can buy it at Starbucks for 3-4 dollars a cup. I love coffee but paying $1,799.99 for an apparatus to make it is a little exorbitant and ridiculous.

Coffee is one of my favorite drinks on the porch but I’m going to stick with my old drip machine which is pretty simple for me to use. If that thing breaks I will just go back to boiling the grounds in a pot. Early in the morning when I have my first cup I’ll bet that stuff made in the expensive machine doesn’t taste a bit better than mine. I have the secret to the perfect cup. I use one scoop of Folgers Classic Roast for two cups and the key thing is to drink it fresh and hot. There is a special grind in Salado called Seasons of Salado that can be purchased in one of our stores. I use this on special occasions and for special guest who visit me on the porch.


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