The Breakfast of Champions


‘Some random thoughts on The Think Drink’

So. I’m walking into my apartment lobby and run into a couple of neighbors. Well, I didn’t literally run into them, which is a good thing because I was clutching an extremely large container of coffee. A venti quad skim latte, to be exact. Which is four shots of espresso and some frothy skim milk. It’s really big, and really good, if you like that sort of thing. And I do.

Well, after making some remark about coming by later to ‘scrape me off the walls’, my neighbors waltzed off to buy Christmas cards or wrapping paper or evergreen fronds. Or something. While I came upstairs to write this piece. (And sip my coffee.)

I love coffee. If some doctor told me I couldn’t drink it, I would have some pretty serious issues. I think it’s delicious, and I also think it gets your brain firing on all cylinders. I’m not the only one. Years ago there was an ad campaign for coffee with the tagline ‘The Think Drink’. And, to this day, Young Attractive Persons use coffee as a study aid. (See photo at the top of this post as proof; Attractive Person pictured is the son of one of my friends, preparing for a final exam.)

Proof that coffee fuels creativity as well as study. Note mug on table as well as spoons on noses

I grew up with Attractive Persons who were always drinking coffee. ‘Would you like coffee?’, ‘Coffee’s in the kitchen’ or even a simple ‘Coffee’s on’ was how one was greeted at the door. In fact, while digging out pictures for this post, I realized that it was a rare family photo that did not feature a Henry or Peterson adult clutching a mug.

My Mom (she is labelled, in case you can’t tell which one she is), mug in hand as we said our farewells after a visit. She did wave good-bye, but with the other hand

Speaking of mugs, my Dad was famous for leaving them everywhere. Everywhere he’d been drinking coffee, anyway. Which really did mean ‘everywhere’. After he’d been to your house, you’d find mugs for weeks: by the couch, under the bed, outside on a bench. I once found one, months after a visit, perched on an ‘arm’ of the furnace in the basement.

One of the mugs you might find just about anywhere after a Henry visit. This is the infamous Incest Mug, which you can read about by clicking here

My family’s grownups didn’t just drink coffee at breakfast time, while goofing around with spoons, or after dinner, though. They drank coffee with meals. Right after I moved to New York, my parents came for a visit. I wanted to impress them so I took them to dinner at Windows on the World. Very fancy, that place. So my dad gives the waiter his order and finishes with ‘and coffee’. And when his first course came he asked where was his coffee? The baffled server got him a cup and saucer and he happily sipped away — through his salad, his entree, the whole rest of the meal.

Grampa P, with my Mom at his side, demolishing some leftovers (probably from Christmas dinner; I see snow out that window), mug within easy reach to wash them down

And my Dad was a Henry. It was the Peterson side who had coffee all the time. That’s because they were Swedes. Did you know that Swedes have the highest per capita consumption of coffee in the world? (They also have the highest alcoholism and suicide rates, but that’s neither here nor there.) The thing is, though, their coffee — the Petersons’ coffee anyway — is, well, a tad on the insipid side. Maybe there are Swedish households where you can get a nice, rich cup of java, but at my Gramma’s you could see right through to the bottom of the cup.

I had this boyfriend once who offended my grandparents greatly by bringing his own coffee — and coffee maker — on Family Visits. I only found out much later, after we’d broken up, that this was one of the (many) reasons he was known to them as ‘Philippe the Creep’. (Gosh, what if he reads this? Oh well, it’s been thirty-odd years; coffee under the bridge, I’d say.)

But back to my morning coffee. In my NYC nabe there are four coffee places in one block — and that’s just on one side of the street. So I have a lot of choices. But I get my daily frothy fix from Starbucks. Now I know that some people, especially in the Pacific Northwest, frown upon Starbucks. The last time I was out visiting my Mom with The Dude and The Child, we were unable to locate one of the region’s clever drive-through espresso bars, and, desperate for caffeine, had, as they say, ‘grabbed a Starbucks’.

One of the many drive-thru espresso bars near my Mom’s place in Oregon. This one looks (sort of) like a coral reef. I don’t know why

Anyway, we couldn’t find a drive-through, disguised as a coral reef or otherwise. So when we walked into the Bong Store, our favorite Astoria emporium that sells swords and scabbards and booze and porn and yes, bongs (we were there to score cigars for My Favorite Brother-in-Law Dave), the proprietor looked at our telltale cartons and said ‘friends don’t let friends drink Starbucks’. He did, somewhat reluctantly, sell us those cigars.

A feisty sign in the Bong Store, right above the cigarette section, and right before we almost didn’t get to buy Dave’s cigars

I just realized this piece is getting super long, and it’s only about coffee, for pete’s sakes. I’ll wrap things up soon, I promise. Before my coffee gets cold, in fact. Speaking of coffee getting cold, I can’t resist sharing this photo I found on Facebook. One of my best FB pals (thanks, Mike!) said I could use it.

‘Comedy is tragedy plus time’, someone (Woody Allen?) once said. In this case, the tragedy is spilled coffee

So I guess that’s about it for this week. If you still hanker after coffee-flavored stories, don’t forget to check out ‘The Incest Mug’. Or you can read this one about coffee as ‘social glue’ (ick) in ‘Small towns, Big City’. I won’t even get into my stories on coffee-as-client when I worked in the Ad Biz. (Did you know that Teddy Roosevelt came up with the slogan ‘good to the last drop’ for Maxwell House?) But if you want, you can check out any of the stories under the Adland Lore tab. They go nicely with a cup of coffee.

Ads (and Ad Stories) go better with coffee. Former Ogilvy Pal Mark displays mug my Dad would gladly arm-wrestle him for. See ‘Flipping the Bird’ for deets

Oh, and in case you were wondering, there is a beverage that my family might enjoy as much — or even more than — coffee. Three guesses what it is:

The only other beverage that can give coffee a run for its money. Cheers!

New York City. December 2016

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32 thoughts on “The Breakfast of Champions

  1. I too, am a lifelong coffee drinker. Just gotta have it, at least in the mornings anyway. I prefer it with a bit of half and half, truvia and a sprinkle of cinnamon. And btw-I love your storytelling!

  2. Unbound Roots

    I think there is something genetically wrong with me because I think I’m the only one (on both sides of my Swedish family) who doesn’t drink coffee. For one, I never quite adapted to the taste, and two, it does horrible thing to my stomach. I do have to say that both sides like their coffee dark – and HOT! My grandmother on my mother’s side of the family was always known to microwave her coffee even if it was fresh out of the pot. 🙂

    • How unusual! A non-caffeinated Swede! (That’s okay; I like you anyway.) As for Grammas, mine, when she wasn’t drinking coffee, would drink something she called Silver Tea. Which was hot water!

  3. Coffee always brings back so many memories of my childhood! Every time (every day, sometimes multiple times a day) I smell that sweet scent of the gods brewing, it takes me back to being in our camper when we went camping. It was always such a homey, comfortable feeling when I’d wake to the smell of coffee brewing and my parents (and oftentimes Grandma) whispering as they got up, put the coffee on, and started to fix breakfast. Ah! Memories!

    • I love this comment — and this memory! I know just what you mean. Way back when I was too young for coffee-drinking, I enjoyed coffee-sniffing. Always felt so warm and protected, smelling that aroma!

      • Yes!!!! I also used to sneak sips from my Dad’s coffee cup on the way to preschool. It contained more sugar than coffee, so I LOVED it! Then, we’d get to preschool and he’d fake being shocked and I’d always get a kick out of it all! ?

  4. I’m sorry, but Tab is the breakfast of champions, at least it was for me and my snotty/snobby roommates when we were in a DC Semester Program sponsored by the School of Public Administration of my and my youngest daughter’s alma mater, USC. And I don’t mean South Carolina but Southern California, which in my day was also known as the University of Second Choice or the University of Solid Cash. According to one of the RHOC (Real Housewives of Orange County, of course) it may also have been U of Spoiled Children. I think my daughter might be one of those, though I of course was none of any. PS I think its reputation as an institute of higher learning has improved. When I was there as an undergrad, only its grad schools were considered any good, again of course.

    • Hahaha! I lived in The South for a time (see my post ‘The King and I’ for deets) and I remember that RC Cola and a Moonpie was the breakfast of choice, if not of champions. It was certainly delish! Thx for checking in, and commenting! xoxo

  5. FOUR SHOTS IN ONE COFFEE?? Wow! That’s impressive. All of the above completely relates to my family and I but substituted with tea (how very British). *types one handed with tea in the other*. I love all the old pictures of your family.

    • Thanks for stopping by, Rachel! Good to hear that I have a ‘very British’ equivalent — with tea. And yes, one of the pleasures of writing this blog is the excuse to sort through old pictures! Come back any time xoxox

  6. Scott Henry

    When complaining to my doctor about not sleeping well, he deadpanned, “how many of those do you drink every day?” He was staring at the cup of Peets in my hand. I wasn’t aware i was holding it during the examination.

    Sad, but true story.

  7. Cindy Henry

    Good one Alice! Us Midwest Henry’s love our coffee too (true, not a big Starbucks fan). Definitely no bottoms (cup!!! Get your mind out of the gutter!) seen here!

  8. Ruth Meisenheimer

    Love the Henry pictures!! I remember “spoons” which, even with my big nose, never got the hang of. So look forward to your stories! xo

    • Big nose!!!! What on earth are you talking about? Heck, I could never do the Nose Thing either. I’m pretty sure only Dad, Laura, and maybe Roger got the Nose Thing Gene. Yes, it was fun looking for the pictures. I wasn’t kidding that many of them featured a coffee mug (!) Enjoy your Christmas, Mrs. M!!! xoxo

  9. judy robbins

    A coffee girl after my own heart. I have taken to bringing styrofoam cups of coffee out into the yard where I am working and pause now and then to sip. Just to keep me going. I have been known to find cruddy forgotten cups in my studio days after. And I have been known to throw a whole cup out if I can see to the bottom of the cup. Thanks for your writing, Alice. Don’t let your coffee get cold.

  10. janetmneal

    I recently went to the cardiologist as I was having weird palpitations. When the doctor called me back, he assured me I was fine, but asked “How’s it going cutting back on the caffeine?”. I looked at the coffee cup in my hand and realized I had TOTALLY blanked that part of our conversation out. And continue to…

  11. Jim Nolan

    Fantastic piece, Alice.

    I too am a coffee fiend. A neighbor gave us his used Italian burr coffee grinder a year ago, and now we drink even more. Aah.

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