Run, do not walk—I repeat for dramatic effect—Run, do not walk to your local Aisle 13 and grab as many, as possible, cases and gallons of fresh drinking water as you can. A very large portion of southwestern Pennsylvania is under a 48-hour boil advisory, and weeze just gots to haves our clean water. No kidding the water aisle at the grocery store resembled a chaotic Black Friday Sale at Walmart—or at least that’s how I imagined it as my wife recounted her shopping story. Nonetheless, due to a cloudiness in the public water sources (the technical Public Works term is turbidity), boiling is mandatory.
Ain’t nothin’ gonna break-a my stride / Nobody gonna slow me down, oh no / I got to keep on movin’ / Ain’t nothin’ gonna break-a my stride / I’m running and I won’t touch ground / Oh no, I got to keep on movin’ ~ Break My Stride by Matthew Wilder
Clean water is truly an amazing convenience that most of us take for granted. As a matter of fact, it was bewildering to determine which daily habits required a temporary retraining such as: “don’t rinse your toothbrush under the faucet”, “nope you can’t drink water from the refrigerator door”, “stop! the dog needs water from a water bottle now!”, and “what do you mean that I can’t make coffee in the Keurig machine?”
Oh, we are so spoiled as a nation of plenty—plenty of everything that we could possibly desire—including fresh water at our daily disposal.
Water is life, and clean water means health ~ Audrey Hepburn
So with a long-standing dependency on the nectar of the gods, also known as coffee, what’s a man to do? How do I make coffee without the convenience of a pre-packaged pod of coffee, that is inserted into a machine, that makes my brew, to perfect proportions, under two minutes, without expertise required from me?
First-world problems, people. Even I recognize the ridiculousness of it all. Our current culture is so spoiled, babied; we rarely are required to think for ourselves or problem-solve our way through the day.
I rooted around my closet in search of my thinking cap, and placed it on my head, even though it felt a few sizes too small. Now what would the Pioneers of the American Frontier do? WWPAFD? Well, they would have started with fresh coffee beans, grinding them to a very fine perfection. Done. Secondly, they would boil some clean water. Electric tea kettle, button pushed, steaming water two minutes later—done. Finally, in the spirit of true adventure and pioneering, they would have poured the boiling water over their ground beans, filtering it all with some type of porous device. Done.
Yes, I’m being a bit over-dramatic, and it is intentional. But the point is that in the huge sea of modern conveniences, it’s very easy to get lost—too easy to get comfortable in being comfortable. Sometimes this scares the pants off of me. How about you?
I’ve owned the Melitta pour over coffee system—a simple plastic device and a paper filter—for nearly ten years now, but it usually collects dust in the upper kitchen cabinet. In my freelancing days, client visits were par for the course. If you wanted to land a new client, a ritual of sharing-coffee-with-you or wanna-grab-lunch was usually required. The mandatory interaction was much deeper than it appeared, with each side of the equation gauging the social competence of the other. And that’s how I learned about the pour over method of brewing bean.
While working on the content for my first self-published book, The Pinhole Camera: A Practical How-To Book for Making Pinhole Cameras and Images, I found myself in the kitchen of a local artist in Pittsburgh. Her home served as an office for her business and a studio for the art of her art making. In mid-discussion regarding her website, she asked if I wanted a cup of coffee—of course I said yes.
As a student of the brewed bean, I was fascinated as she began the long-winded process of coffee grinding, water boiling, and finally pouring boiling water over the grinds and paper filter. The taste was amazing and, I suppose at that moment, that’s when I learned that there are many ways to make a cup of coffee (with varying results in flavor, consistency, and quality).
So what’s the take-away from today’s narrative? Several, I guess: Americans are truly spoiled and ignorantly blissful regarding how many luxuries we possess, and there is more than one way to brew a cup of coffee. Those are your nuggets of wisdom for the day.