What the heck was I thinking?
It was a morning, not unlike every other morning. My alarm went off; the dog crashed up onto the bed licked my face; and everything started off as usual. You see, my morning routine is simple: Wake, wash my face, then boil water for coffee. Next step, obviously, is to grind the coffee. I have one of those burr grinders that gives me the perfect grind every time. One of my favorite little kitchen gadgets it is. So bleary eyed, I wash my face and put the water on the boil but when I turned the grinder on the most excruciating sound erupted from it . . . Silence. I had forgotten to buy more coffee the last time I was at Moschetti’s. (I’ll refrain from typing an N with a dozen o’s following it. But that is what I was thinking.)
I remember my first cup of coffee. Do you? Now it was not actually the first cup I had ever had in my life but it was that first cup which led me down the dark path I now follow. For many years I catered on motion picture sets, many of them in and around San Francisco. My first job was as a proper catering cook. Traveling around these United States in a mobile kitchen providing breakfast and lunch for all the stars in Hollywood. Later, I returned to SF to stay with my father when my mother passed. This life move gave me the next version of my movie career: Craft Services. Now as I just stated that the proper caterer made breakfast and lunch. Craft Services, on the other hand, provided food and coffee throughout the day, and many times night, shoots.
This was all back in the 90’s and I had some small local reputation having worked on such films as Copy Cat, The Rock, Sweet November, A Walk in the Clouds and, to finish my career Matrix 2 & 3. I say that I had some small reputation because I was a bit of a novelty doing the job of Craft Services. The position was never given too much consideration by the other trades and was more of a “Hey, Craft Services, go get some coffee and donuts for the crew,” kind of position. Well, having recently graduated from Culinary School, I took the approach of making coffee, and all my other offerings, with a standard for quality and taste. To make this happen, I outfitted a custom van with a rollup door, ice bin, generator and two coffee pots for brewing. Every morning I would start the generator, set the coffee pots to perking and drive across the bridge into the city ready to roll up to the curb and start serving. Only this one particular morning the circuit breakers on my generator tripped and the coffee did not perk. With only one real job to do, have coffee ready at 6 a.m, I could not, not have coffee. So, being ever industrious, I quickly filled a stock pot with 5 gallons of water, set it atop my high speed propane burner to boil.
I had a few fans, in the movie biz. One of them was Sigourney Weaver while we worked on Copy Cat. She and I chatted on occasion. I made her coffee and soups and we exchanged holiday gifts. Another was Mitch. Now Mitch was, is, was a remarkable cameraman. I had the privilege of working with him on a few movies, so by the time we were both on the shooting crew for The Rock, we were old friends. Mitch was mostly a fan of my coffee. He would stop in every morning for a quick chat and a cuppa. This morning he stopped in and I was a little embarrassed. The coffee was not ready, but I told him that I was about to make Cowboy Coffee. His eyes lit up. “What’s that?” I explained: Boil water, add coffee, stir, let settle then strain. To me this was a no brainer but to Mitch it is as if I had brought a new puppy to set. (Now for a good cup, the coffee needs to sit with the hot water for about 3 to 4 minutes.) Mitch had to run off to check in but was back promptly in time to help me strain my Cowboy brew through a fine metal sieve.
Most of you are aware that the filter in drip coffee strains out many of the oils as well as the coffee fines. French Press coffee leaves a heartier cup with a throw of sediment often left in the bottom of the cup. Cowboy Coffee does the later and then some. Rich and smooth; and so full bodied that I think Mitch skipped the normal splash of milk. I remember him being a great help with the lifting and straining, so he deservedly got the first cup. The expression on his face was one of pure joy and amazement. “This is the best cup of coffee I have ever had,” and off he ran back to camera. The next thing I knew the director, the producer and a few AD’s descended on my little truck telling me how much Mitch was going on about my coffee. They each poured, they each sipped and they each smiled. After that the producer made me promise to make coffee that way for the rest of the movie. More notorious than famous was I. But I digress.
My first cup came later that morning. It had been a particularly hard week and I was both tired and worn. Barely able to smile at times I soldiered through but was not my normal charming self. Now as I said, I have had coffee before but today, I was about to have my first cup. Having a bit of a sweet tooth I added two sugars to my Cowboy and sipped. For my contemporaries I have a question: Do you remember when you became middle age? I do. I remember the moment, the minute, the second, the moment I reached the peak of youth. I was barely 35. Not too far passed the Age of Consent I stood at the precipice staring down upon the Age of Descent. With every warm delicious sip that dark, caffeinated, heaven sent, liquid began coursing its way through my body. I positively felt 34 again. I jest, 34 & ½. No matter. It was in that moment that I knew that I could not take another step forward in life without coffee as a constant ally. It was then that I knew my youth had be spent, and that I was in need of dear dark coffee to apply the brakes as I began the slide . . . downhill.
To my chagrin, all of this sped through my mind as I stared at the empty coffee cup on my counter. What to do? Nothing to do except, drag a comb through my hair, throw on some shoes and find some coffee. Not being a brand name consumer (Moschetti’s excluded) I made my way downtown to a place we all know, and now I love, Java Jax on the corner of Georgia and Sonoma. The place is immaculate and the gentleman behind the counter seemed to intuit my immediate need. He did not even ask, he merely handed me a warm mug and said, “Come back and pay when you get your second cup.” To know me is to know a few things. I like quiet in the morning and Facebook memes. As I sat down at a corner table to brood until the java kicked in I could not help but think about two memes in particular.
Hello Darkness My Old Friend,
and my new favorite,
Lie To Me And Tell Me How Much We Will Accomplish Today
Java Jax, a literary life saver. Thank you for your kindness and for being morning people.
Until next time,
Eat Well and Smile Often