If not now, when?

One American woman. Twenty acres and a 1650 farmhouse in Tuscany. Random introspection and hilarity, depending on the day.

28 June 2005

Coffee talk ("Tawk amongst yourselves")

I've oft been quoted as saying (usually at work when trying to facilitate the inevitable discomfort of change):
"It's not better, it's not worse, it's just different."
While – as has already been noted, I do miss the hell out of my Caribou large – nonfat – vanilla – no froth – latte: I must say that coffee here is really excellent – much better than the average in the States, though if you are weak of palate, it will take a bit of adjustment. To paraphrase some unremembered author, Italians prefer to take their coffee in short and very strong bursts throughout the day. A ‘bar’ here refers to a coffee bar. The concept of a ‘to-go’ coffee is completely nonexistent. You go up to the cashier, pay in advance for your order, get a scontrino (receipt) and then walk over to the bar itself, where the barista (this word sounds Italian, but I'm not confident that it isn't just a manufactured Starbucksian word?) makes you whatever kind of coffee you want - served in a *real* coffee cup - and you stand at the bar with the locals, knock it back, and head out the door.

But before THAT, you have to figure out what to order: the myriad ways to order coffee was actually invented here, I’m certain. Ye Starbucksians will catch on relatively quickly: Ordering just a caffe gets you an espresso. (Also called Normale.) Doppio is a double shot of espresso. Macchiato means marked (as in marked with a touch of milk.) And so on. (random Italian language trivia – when you order Venti at Starbucks, that’s the Italian word for twenty – as in the number of ounces the cup holds. See? You already know more Italian than you thought you did!) Americano means – one guess – bigger and weaker. The word Latte literally means milk – though when referring to coffee, it has been adapted to mean coffee-with-milk. Despite the fact that I’m a picky-coffee-orderer in the States, here I just drink it Normale. I figure I already appear to be enough of a foreigner without mangling a prissy coffee order before my tongue is warmed up in the morning! I’m STILL not totally confident of what the difference is between a latte and a cappuccino, though – in either country! And, oh -- a cappuccino is ONLY for breakfast here – ordering one after 11 am definitely identifies you as ‘not from around here’!

Speaking of breakfast, this is the part of my soul that has always been Italian – the non-breakfast eating part of me. You see, I’m one of those odd Americans who simply doesn’t love breakfast: other than the necessity of coffee -- I’m fine with eating nothing, or a simple piece of toast or a bagel (oooooh, real chewy New York style bagels. Add THAT to the list of things I miss!). I can’t stomach eating anything sweet in the morning, nor do I like eggs, anything made with eggs (frittata, quiche, omelet, etc etc.), oatmeal, cream of wheat, bananas, or generally any preserved fruit. The Old Soul will quickly pipe in that I have ‘texture issues’ – which is true, though it makes me sound much more finicky than I really am. I’m actually a pretty adventurous, easy-to-please eater, at any meal other than breakfast. But this is an easy transition to Italian life: they aren’t breakfast eaters, either. A quick coffee and a small pastry of some sort (cornetta, flauti, croissant, etc.), and they’re off and running for the day – until about a 1 or 2 pm lunch. Perhaps it’s because their systems are still working off the heavy (and LATE!) dinner from the night before!

But back to coffee, I’m working on outfitting the Capanna (1-bedroom guest house) for guests. Since I’m living there for the next 2 months while Diplomat, Renaissance Artist and I are all overlapping here, it’s the best time to figure out what people would really need to actually stay here. So, during my trip to the IperCoop this past week, I also bought an electric espresso pot. The instructions – no kidding -- came in 20 languages, including Arabic and a host of others I didn’t recognize. I threw away all but the Italian and English. After three tries to work it and no luck (I insisted on reading only the Italian directions, to see how much I could ‘get’), I finally realized that I was using the wrong type of coffee. Argh. It’s amazing how missing one little word can throw off the entire program. Also bought a Tostapane (toaster). I must admit, I’m impressed with Italian innovation: you put the bread in these funny ‘holder’ things and THEN stick it into the machine. When it’s done, simply grip the (cool) handles, and easily remove bread. All this for only 9 Euros. Though this overly-smart innovation begs the question of how Italian children learn about electricity if it isn’t while sticking a knife in to a toaster to fish out their stuck bread?

The first wave of guests is already making their reservations – The Mom, Chickie, and their gang of assorted friends will be here for Christmas, and I’m trying to convince Blossom to abandon American Thanksgiving and come hang with me here. The Professor & MaryAnn have sent word that they’re making a pilgrimage (to birdwatch among other things) next spring. Old Soul & Neighborhood Vigilante are working their oh-so-busy calendars. The Traveling CloudBoffers will hopefully stop by between tours this fall, as might Peter Pan. Beatrice & the Pensive Oak will be here in October. As for the rest of you … start thinkin’! My very FIRST guests will actually be here next week: Sparky & Tortola Artista are going to be in Tuscany on vacation in early July – staying by sheer coincidence only about 15 miles away. So we’ll christen their visit (and all those that follow!) with Prosecco, of course. As for the rest of you: I’ve now got the right coffee, mosquito net, and a toaster: it's like boy scout camp with really good wine! Ya’ll drop on by!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Strange...when you came back to the States (and stopped blogging), I missed you the most. I felt like you were really far away for the first time since you left. So weird. I am so glad you are back home so I can enjoy my morning Venti Drip with you each day.
Love, Unassuming Princess

4:17 PM  
Blogger The Mom said...

Thanks for the insight...I'm packing hipboots, long johns, a fly swatter,peanut butter and marshmellows, oatmeal, and Jack Daniels. Since you have the appropriate netting and I will be there in the winter...my list will about cover any situation that arises.

3:02 AM  

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