Has anything we eat or drink infiltrated our cultural vernacular as thoroughly as coffee? Maybe coffee can't help itself: just as caffeine enters our bloodstream, perhaps so must coffee itself work its way through our culture. Whatever your position in the dialogue over chain coffee houses versus the local coffee place, here is a cup of hot coffee culture to start your day.
Read about it. If you watch AMC's Mad Men, you just learned that a cup of joe is called that after Joe Martinson, a New York City street coffee vendor who went on to found one of the lynchpin coffee businesses of the early twentieth century. Like most urban legends, there is no definitive proof that we actually got the saying from Joe Martinson, but it's a great story, as is the story of coffee itself. Mark Pendergrast 's Uncommon Grounds: the History of Coffee and How it Transformed Our World takes you through the global coffee scene, from the inception of coffee trading through American mass marketing. If you'd rather enjoy a good novel with your latte, then try David Liss' The Coffee Trader or Cleo Coyle's coffeehouse mystery series.
Continue Reading Coffee compendium . . .
Cook with it. Every cowboy knows that you sneak a teaspoon of ground coffee into the chili, but there are further expressions of coffee's compatibility with the kitchen (and not just cooks who need a shot to get through making dinner). Williams-Sonoma coffee and spice rub is a must for a beautifully seasoned and seared cowboy steak, or if you like your steak bistro style, try Gordon Hamersley's coffee marinade for it. Coffee granita is a classic dessert, but why not try a delicious and sinful coffee crunch cake? While having your cake, spike your coffee with a generous pour of Trader Vic's Kona liqueur.
Drink it. It's autumn, so don't be shy about ordering your first pumpkin spice latte of the season. But remember to support your local coffee roaster. In Greenwich Village, McNulty's has been importing and roasting coffee since 1895. Mail and phone order is available, so try the Scandanavian blend; they also sell decaf and tea, if you must. Cooperstown's Stagecoach is also a master roaster -- learn coffeemaking from Stagecoach here (again, mail order available).
Finally, if you live in the right climate or can create the correct indoor conditions, you can grow your own coffee plant. You may need need help when it comes time to harvest and roast beans and you will need patience and TLC to get that far. But even if your plant never bears fruit, what better expression of your commitment to sustainable resources than parenting a plant from the species that wakes you up when you're tired, enlivens you when you're socializing, and cheers you up every time you taste the fruit of its labors.