Damn Fine Coffee
“Harry, I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Every day, once a day, give yourself a present. Don’t plan it. Don’t wait for it. Just let it happen. It could be a new shirt at the men’s store, a catnap in your office chair, or two cups of good, hot black coffee.” —Special Agent Dale Cooper, FBI
There’s a lot of wisdom to be had from any reading of David Lynch’s famed Twin Peaks from a culinary perspective. The characters inhabiting its twisted world are rarely seen consuming anything other than the finest of comfort foods—doughnuts, various pies, the occasional cherry stalk, and yes: plenty of damn fine coffee. It’s Cooper’s philosophy of self-gifting that’s stuck with me through the intervening years since my first viewing of series, and particularly his obsession with his cups of joe.
Let’s face it: people get a little silly about ‘their’ coffee. Fanatical pursuit of the good bean spans all demographics; bearded hipsters, high-strung executives, McCafé-dwelling labourers, the single-source foodie aficionados. Everyone has their own preference, their own big opinions on how coffee should be done, or what comprises a good one. Further, no matter what the formula, all coffee-drinkers are unified on one point: the only way you’ll get them to stop drinking it is to pry it from their cold, dead hands.
(Side note : a dietician once told me of a morbidly obese patient who refused to give up their five, daily, super-sized-double-cream-six-sugared chocolate lattes, regardless of a single serving being packed with 100% of the recommended daily intake of saturated fat…)
My journey with coffee has been a bumpy one. Despite chugging more cups through my university years to keep a couple of Starbucks franchises in business, my twenties saw a complete departure from the brew: I was told I was allergic to it, and that I’d need to stop. I was crestfallen, but I did comply. For nine, brutal years. It wasn’t so bad. I survived. I bitched and moaned a lot, doing my best at self-righteously broadcasting the few negative health effects I could Google whenever my co-workers seemed to be enjoying their morning and afternoon doses too much.
Fortunately, that dark period of my life didn’t last. A coffee-free world could not—nay, should not—be allowed to exist in any universe. A chance visit to a completely different practitioner, years later, and a candid question about my coffee allergy, changed everything:
“Oh, you did that allergy test? We don’t even do that anymore. Totally unreliable. I doubt you’re allergic to coffee at all.”
The rest, as they say, is history. The timing of the discovery was made even more fortuitous by my move to London, a city that, while labouring long under the guise of being ‘a tea city’, had a blossoming (hipster-driven) coffee culture. Like, the real sort. None of this Twin Peaks diner coffee business. (Honestly, I’d love to see how badly Agent Cooper’s mind would blow if he ever passed through Shoreditch.)
The shameful, cutting-a-long-story-short part of my tale is the personal aftermath: I’ve gone from being a man who’d diss and jeer anyone bragging about how good their coffee was every morning (me, back then: “Seriously? You drink the same shit every day. Coffee is either drinkable, or it’s not. You’re just addicted to the caffeine or something.”) to flipping to the opposite end of the scale: a man with an Aeropress, a bag of Kenya’s finest, and a shiny Japanese Porlex hand-cranked grinder he’s not afraid to use at his desk.
The me of five years ago would hate the me of this morning. I don’t go on about coffee that much. I don’t rub it in people’s faces. If anything, my current obsession with the ‘press is something I try to keep to myself. It’s bad enough being branded some kind of East London wanker for chipping away at novels while playing with an Oculus rift in a sharing-economy-friendly co-working space in an old Hackney Wick warehouse on the canal—the sight of that same wanker performing a smug hand-grind (while within reach of a perfectly respectable filter-based coffee machine) may just be enough to push a person’s sanity over the edge. The me of five years ago certainly wouldn’t like it—he’d have taken a bat to the Porlex weeks ago.
What I’m getting at is that I’d like to think Special Agent Cooper would understand. He’d get it, that the morning ritual, noisy, temperature-and-time-sensitive process is just another way of giving myself that daily present. It isn’t planned. Some days it doesn’t happen at all, but when it does? That five minutes of obsessive prep is worth it, every drop. I’m not perfect at it yet, but I’m getting better—even the educational/growth part of that morning cup has become part of Cooper’s brand of gift. Mostly, it’s just about sitting back with my cup, flipping up some morning cat videos, and enjoying one final moment of calm before the day takes over.
And really, isn’t that what Coop’s secret was really trying to get across, hand-cranked or otherwise?