Tuesday, May 8

Assimilation

I have never really cared for coffee.

My reasons didn't really have anything to do with the fact that I was raised within a religious culture where coffee is taboo. As a matter of fact, as a general rule in my life, if I am told something is off limits, that just makes me desire it all the more. But that has never been the case with coffee. Knowing it was on the "no-no" list didn't draw me to it at all.

I actually have fond olfactory memories of a brewing pot in my grandmother's house when I was a little girl. The fragrant aroma filled her historical Southern Utah house with its strong, beckoning scent. And still, that never enticed me.
Truly, I think it came down to a sensory thing for me. Perhaps it was the too strong scent. The coffee aisle with its fresh beans and grinder at the supermarket kind of repulsed me. I never ever thought coffee flavored candies or ice cream or treats were anything but yuck. And I certainly never drank the stuff.

Until now.

Holland has won me over.

I drink coffee.

Truly, this is not a surprise when you consider just how much of the black liquid is consumed in this country. It is said that the Dutch run on coffee. I remember reading in an adapting-to-life-in-Holland expat book the account of some tourists to The Netherlands who returned to the States after an extended visit here and reported that they had learned to say "hello" in Dutch during their travels. Clearly, they said, the word for a warm greeting in any Dutch home or gathering is "Koffie?"
You can't miss the substance. Coffee is served at every cafe and snack stand of course, but also at the grocery stores, the doctors office waiting room and well, just everywhere.

It is brewed strong, dark and powerful. And served piping hot.

I began my exploration into the world of coffee with the mostly milk cappuccino. A friend served me a cup at her Scheveningen home. I was surprised that the smell and the taste of the coffee hidden inside didn't overwhelm or repulse me. Tenderly I sipped at the contents of my cup, allowing the hot liquid to coat my insides with its cozy warming charm.

That was the beginning of the transformation; me as a coffee drinker.

I have a Dutch friend here, who is going to chuckle as he reads this post. I have known him for 15 years or more and the whole of that time I have been an outspoken opponent of coffee. Not for others, just for me.
He has always complimented me on the coffee I brew (which is really saying something coming from a Dutchman) and has scratched his head over the fact that I could make such a delicious pot without knowing how or even liking it.

I suppose it's just one of those brilliant hidden talents. Coffee Brewing Aficionado; that's me. I wonder if it would be worthwhile skill to list it on my resume?

Ah, me. Digressing as always.

So, back to coffee and me. We have a new budding relationship. I have recently been spotted ordering a cup of my own at a cafe or two, and have been witnessed to respond to the greeting "Koffie?" with a hearty "Lekker!".
This morning as my husband descended the stairs to leave for work, he stopped cold at the kitchen doorway when he saw the coffee maker pulled from it's usual spot on the storage shelf where it awaits the guests to our home, bubbling away with the luscious liquid.

First he laughed out loud at this bold manifestation that my integration is complete. And then he joined me in a cup.

Beautiful, black, hot. Coffee.




23 comments:

  1. I love coffee, but I'm choosy about it. I like it freshly ground and not too strong. I like it with cream and sugar. I am VERY put off when I go to a restaurant and ask for cream and they bring me some non-dairy crap. I have to literally bite my tongue not to say, "Uh... how is this even remotely different than just putting whitener in my coffee?" Or, when I ask for sugar, they say, "Do you mean real sugar or sweetener?" ????? Didn't I say sugar?

    I'm mean about coffee.

    But I think it would be soooooo cool to have a dutch cup of coffee with you!

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  2. Teri-
    Now, that would be cool!
    Thus far, I take my coffee with milk and sugar, (sweetener if it's available) but if I am really going to make the full transformation to Dutch life, I am going to have to learn to like it black.

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  3. I've never learned to like it black and I never shall. I see no reason for such a silly endeavor.

    But it is a pain when you order it on a plane or somewhere and you have to put in the stuff to make it yummy. Especially if you want CREAM!

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  4. Ha! I don't see me drinking it black anytime soon.
    I had a friend in AZ who was a big fan of cream in her coffee, and/or the flavored creamers. Of course, that was back in the days before I was a fan, so I have no point of reference.
    Dutch milk is rich and creamy. I don't know about cream. Must investigate...

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  5. I didn't drink coffee until my junior year abroad in Italy - a cappucino with one of those elephant ears pastries would be how I started my day.

    I LOVE thick Cuban coffee.

    I was also a purist with tea (no milk or sugar) until I went to South Africa. My hostess just handed me a cup without asking and I thought I would swim in it.

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  6. You see SMID, that's where I am a purist too and have long taken my tea black. That was up until moving to the continent and discovering real English tea. Now I drink my PG Tipps, or my Earl Gray the same way the Brits do: with milk.

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  7. Jenn,

    Coffee is everywhere in New Orleans too - strong and often with chicory (not my favorite). At a recent dinner, a friend introduced me to cafe brule - a butt-kicking concoction with lemon and orange rind steeped in brandy and Grand Marnier with sugar cubes - then torched to reduce the liquor down. The torching is an art here, and our friend Stephen brought his own silver heirloom brule bowl and matching porcelain cups. Then they add the coffee and continue to cook it down. BF and I enjoyed it so much, we had 4 of the small servings...not thinking how concentrated it was. We didn't crash until 3AM!

    The only thing that's ever turned me off was living too close (8 blocks) to a coffee roasting plant. Errrggghh...

    Great Post! Ken

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  8. Ken-
    Oh, my goodness! Coffee and a side show. Sounds like fun. And no, couldn't live next to a coffee grinding house either. Ick.

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  9. Will you take SMID and me out for coffee if we drop in some day? Ken

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  10. Ja, zeker!
    Dude, you are totally ON.
    When will you be here?

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  11. I am so glad I discovered your blog because it cracks me up! I HATED coffee until I deployed the first time. After that, it became my best friend! And I drink it BLACK! Welcome to the coffee club! ::hugs::

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  12. kiki-
    My hat is off to you for this and so many other reasons. Drinking coffee black shows real grit!

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  13. I love coffee, and my husband I sit on the sofa and drink a pot every morning before our daughter wakes up. I always add cream, but occasionally I get lucky and score some fresh cream from a milk cow that a friend of mine owns a share in. That cream is so thick you can stand a spoon in it. Yum!

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  14. I love my cup of coffee in the morning. I gave it up 6 months before I got pregnant with my first son and then stayed off it for over a year. All the experts said I would have more energy; this was not true. With my second pregnancy I developed an aversion to it. After I gave birth I drank it again. I think it wakes me up enough in the morning so that I start moving around more, and it's the moving around that gives me more energy.

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  15. Mmm coffee.

    The best coffee you can get in China is in Starbucks. That's not saying much and there aren't Starbucks everywhere here (yet). If you want to make it yourself, you can buy beans, etc from expat stores and even a French press. But it doesn't seem worth it to Chris. He's the real coffee addict. So we end up buying these instant Nescafes which are pretty horrific and mostly sugar. Not good for a black coffee drinker.

    We do have a lot of great tea available though! Oddly, not quite as many people drink tea here anymore. Lots of 录茶 drinkers in Central China, but in Metropolitan areas people are drinking less and less it seems.

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  16. Hmm can't drink tea with milk though! Coffee and milk ok...but tea and milk, that is a no for me.

    Just out of curiosity: does your assimilation go that far that you start drinking 'karnemelk' as well? I never could!

    I am actually very surprised that you call the Netherlands a coffee country. It never stroke me as one, since they also commonly drink milk in public places (try to ask for milk in a belgian restaurant and then watch the face of the waiter!!), they drink loads of karnemelk for lunch, they drink tea as well...
    I think the USA and UK much more as coffee places. There are coffeeshops all over the place and people walk on the street with their take-away coffee cup! You don't see such a thing in Europe.
    Gosh and try working with the French: after a 2 hour lunch they do need their 30 minute coffee brake before they can start working again. No possibility to add milk in the coffee either. No milk on the entire site of a huge multinational company. That is simply not done in France, so I learned. Actually, it is already not done in the Frenchspeaking part of Belgium: they already share their coffeeculture with the French.

    bye bye


    Ellen

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  17. You are so totally Dutch now, you know that, right?

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  18. Lekker kopje koffie! Anytime someone we know goes over to Holland we ask them to bring back a few 'bricks' of Douwe Egberts koffie.

    Happened upon your blog a couple of weeks ago, and have been enjoying your take on the country. I lived south of Eindhoven for some years as a teenager (father was a Philips man!) Now live in the Sonoran Desert.

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  19. anno-
    Fresh cream sounds divine. I think I am going to have to see if the neighborhood farm gives any away!

    alex-
    I never thought I would be one of those people who needed that cup of coffee to get the motor started. But I have joined the ranks. It's more than a physical addiction though, for me the cup of coffee is also about the conversation and camraderie as well.

    dee-
    Thanks! I thought you'd approve.

    jenn-
    We have the instant nescafe's too, which is what my husband has been drinking until I joined the dark side and will share a pot of brewed coffee. I think he's glad for the company!
    Apparently Starbucks is working to make inroads here in Holland and has just opened the first store at the Amsterdam airport. I am not sure how it's going to go over with the locals, who like thier coffee strong and thick, but the expats I know are singing praises.

    goofball-
    NO! No Karnemelk-yuck! And no drop either for that matter. One has to draw the line somewhere at melding with a culture!
    I know what you mean about milk in France though, when we traveled to Praz sur Arly at Christmastime last year, it took us nearly 30 minutes at the grocery store to track down a container of milk. It was well hidden! Then of course we paid nearly 4 euro for the 1/2 liter of milk. What gives?

    songbird-
    Yep. I am pretty much Dutch!

    isa/ina mama-
    Welkom! What a treat for me to have all of these once-in-holland-now-in-the-desert connections! I am so thrilled you are reading!

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  20. Alas, the quacks tell me I shouldn't drink the stuff anymore... acid reflux, don'tcha know/

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  21. GF-
    Wat jammer!
    Do you medicate for it and sneak the coffee anyway?

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  22. Hello - still making my way through your blog and enjoying it immensely! What I love about koffie in The Netherlands is the perfect thicker richer consistency, the little cup and saucers it is served in and the little biscuit or cookie that always comes with it on the saucer. And the little rectangular wrapped sugar cubes. Even though I don't add sugar to my koffie - I just love the presentation. And to cap the experience drinking it at an outdoor cafe table on the main market square during market time on a (rare) sunny afternoon. Probably one of my first choice ways to spend an afternoon. Sigh. It's been far too long since my last trip to Europe. Almost 5 years!!:0
    Amy

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