Mealtime Meltdown

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I’m getting ready for a book burning…

I have been fighting with my computer all afternoon and it has left me in a poor mood. At least that is what I’m going to blame it on.

Mealtime meltdown, and I’m not referring to some three-year-old who doesn’t want to eat his broccoli. It’s me. I’m at war with the idea of fixing food to eat. Although I like eating as a rule, and probably eat more than a lot of other people I’m starting to harbor a great dislike for planning meals and cooking them. It’s work. Repetitive work. Often unrewarding work.

I suppose it’s like anything else – if I would view it as my job and not an interruption, I would approach it more reasonably. In fact, I must have approached it differently for the past 40 years or my family would have starved to death, hired a live-in chef, or spent way too much money eating out. I must have liked cooking back then, but everything has gotten so complicated lately.

These days, almost all food is suspect. It either causes cancer, or kills off our beneficial bacteria, or is loaded with hormones or environmental poisons. We have to eat keto, organic, gluten free, free range everything. We have to eat our food in a 6 hour time window, drink enough water to float a boat, and avoid comfort food in general (and bread in specific). We are bombarded with messages like “food is medicine” and at the same time we are sold a zillion supplements and told to ask our doctors for prescription meds for everything from depression to skin problems. I’m confused and I kind of want to stop eating, kind of…

The husband came to me this afternoon around 3 pm. “What did you have for lunch?”

What he really meant was “what can I have for lunch?”

It’s evidently less demanding if he asks it that way, which he often does. I had just started in on a blog post for the business site and my creative energy, which was already faltering, disappeared completely with the interruption. There was soup in the refrigerator. Mom made it yesterday. After leading him to it, we discussed what I thought was an explanation and a plan. At least it was my plan. We had a late breakfast and we would have an early dinner in about 2 hours. But he was hungry so I dished up a bowl of soup to hold his hunger at bay until then.

You might think that I moved in with Mom to help her with her meals, but that is not the case. She has pretty much given up on the way the husband and I try to eat (or not eat). She eats when she is hungry. The timing might be 4 am, it might be every 4 hours, and the deciding factor on what to eat might be whatever is about to spoil in the fridge. She likes to hide in her room and eat. We do intersect at the table, for a meal, a few times a week but we are most often like ships passing in the night, SYSCO trucks passing on the freeway…

After giving up on my computer problem, and aware that the fated dinner hour was closing in on me, I went in to see if Mom wanted to eat dinner. The process of figuring out WHO wants to eat sometimes gives me time to think of WHAT to eat. She had stuffed herself, her words, with a taco salad not too long before and wasn’t really in the mood. She must have figured I was frustrated with “food think” because she came out to the kitchen and got her leftovers out for me to fix for myself and the husband. Why not, I thought?

So, I warmed, chopped, sprinkled, arranged – all those annoying little activities – to produce our salads and called the husband to eat.

“I’ll take about a third of that” he said. “You can put the rest of it away for later. I just ate soup and a sandwich.”

Okay, just put me in a straight jacket and lock me up. I could have been reading a book or something fun instead of standing in the kitchen FIXING FOOD for someone who doesn’t want it. I am constantly vacillating between guilt (what? There’s nothing to eat?) and frustration (you made food – I don’t want any).

I will admit, it’s not easy living with me in charge of food. I am prone to disregard my stomach. I can tolerate the same menu day after day. I can eat water for food, or take a walk and skip the meal altogether. I love doing so many other things more than worrying about what to eat.  When it comes to food, there is one thing I can say I love. I love friends who love to cook and invite me to eat, and you know who you are. Just sayin’…

“Up North” People

Meet “The Sisters” who are part of my extended up north family. Michelle, Susie and Judith are three women who have been near and dear for years now. Susan and Judith started out life in Vietnam but were adopted by a kind lady who was in government service. Michelle was the lady’s biological child. These three sisters have lived in several parts of the globe growing up. They have a delightful accent which is hard to place because it’s from all over. Even they don’t know what to call it.

The sisters have resided in Hayward for about 20 years, running a child daycare business in their home and various other jobs. They happily participate in any community event they can manage to get to. They especially did not want to miss the upcoming annual hospital picnic.

Michelle was talking to Mom, planning our Saturday outing together and in addition to the picnic, she wanted us to spend time at her house and also go out for dinner. Mom tried to say no because she doesn’t like to plan more than one “event” per day.  But as Mom says,  Michelle, who is only 91 “has more energy” than she does so dinner ended up in the plan too. (Michelle is amazing. She wants to cruise the Panama Canal next year. She has more energy than I do!)

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Does this look like the perfect picnic. Yes.

Our first event, the hospital picnic, was a genuine, small town, delightful event. I’ve never lived anywhere else where hospitals had picnics. The hospital personnel were great hosts and were giving out free health information at the welcome tables (the colonoscopy pictures were “to die” for…). They had a raffle and I won a prize, which happens almost never!!!. The food was really good. Games, music, pie and ice cream. Perfect.

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Judith, Susan, the husband and Mom at the hospital picnic!

Keeping the Christian sabbath on Saturday is routine for the sisters and they love to spend it with family and friends. We joined them this Saturday after the picnic, at their house. The sisters are gift givers and our family has been blessed many times over with their generosity. Sometimes it’s a chocolate bar, sometimes it’s a basket full of delicious food, or a book. They always think of something and today was no exception. We came away with so much! But I will tell you the really remarkable thing. Like most people I am more comfortable with reciprocal gifting, but I would not be able to keep up with Michelle, Susan and Judith. They truly give without expecting things in return and they do it to make their love evident. Their joy in giving makes me feel loved.

We went out for dinner. We waited a few hours, hoping we wouldn’t still feel stuffed from the picnic (didn’t work), and went for Chinese food. I don’t know how we happen to have a Chinese restaurant in Hayward – somehow it always seems a little out of place in this land of lumberjacks and Nordic skiers – but it is a welcome break from McDonald’s. Michelle does not have dinner out without treating everyone to dessert as well. We finished off the evening with a trip to Dairy Queen.

An eventful sabbath day with the Madison sisters left me knowing that Hayward is blessed to have them. This is not the last time they will appear in stories here. Some people fit so gracefully into a small town, a town that still has hospital picnics and Dairy Queens, a town with three stop lights and a park with a giant Musky, a town “up north”. Just sayin’…

 

 

Another Keto Breakfast

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Two slices of turkey bacon, half an avocado, two poached eggs and some wilted greens with garlic.

In addition to wanting to eat well and be healthy, I want to be frugal and not waste food. This morning I did both by trying a plate from this book, “Fat for Fuel Ketogenic Cookbook” and modifying it to use what was in my refrigerator.  The cookbook does not give calorie count and nutrients for each recipe but I actually found that refreshing. None of the recipes have empty calories and the serving sizes are moderate, so I can focus on enjoying good food instead of counting everything that can be counted.

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I’m a Sam’s Club shopper for many reasons – one being that they carry some good organic fruit, vegetable and salad ingredients.  The husband had shopped there too, right before I returned home from a five-week absence. He had bought their wonderful, but rather large box of spring mix and it was fairly screaming to be used before it died. I decided we would eat greens for breakfast.

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What we call greens is a mysterious bunch of leafy vegetables. They can be the leaves of lettuce, chard, or spinach, or the above ground part of root vegetables like beets or turnips. The mysterious part is that when you eat them fresh and uncooked as in a salad, a couple cups of them look like a lot of food. When you cook a couple cups of them, they wilt and look like a spoonful or two – big difference.  So, if you have a lot of greens to use up, get a recipe calling for wilted greens.

I also buy garlic at Sam’s club even though the bag is, again, rather large. It is a good price however, and having a lot of it makes me search for ways to use it. I know it is good for me. Today’s recipe had garlic and greens, which was perfect.

I wouldn’t ordinarily need instructions for poaching eggs but these instructions were interesting and made sense to me so I tried them. The recipe calls for boiling salted water in the pan, with the addition of 2 teaspoons of vinegar. Next came the interesting part which was to stir and get the water moving in a circular pattern before cracking the eggs into the center.  I’m not sure it made a lot of difference but it made me feel like a fancy cook.

I enjoyed the breakfast. The husband didn’t say anything. I think he is just glad I’m back cooking again.

I’m wondering, what does it take to make you feel like a “fancy cook”? 

Times and Travels: San Juan Farmer’s Market

I love seeing evidence of people being productive in basic ways, and nothing is more basic than providing food. That is why I enjoy farmers, coming to market to sell to the end user.

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Coming off the ferry at Friday Harbor

San Juan Island is one of many islands in the Puget Sound area of Washington. Ferries are as common as buses around Puget Sound. We took the ferry from Anna Cortes to the small port of Friday Harbor – it happened to be on a Friday too, but that had nothing to do with the name.  We arrived late in the day so it wasn’t until Saturday morning that we returned to Friday Harbor for the San Juan Farmer’s Market.

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Living on an island prompts many people to value independence. They like to produce their needs locally so they don’t have the extra cost of importing from the mainland. The many small farms on the island grow crops, raise animals and bring products to the market in hopes of selling them. I think they enjoy the sense of community as much as anything else. The vendors get to talk with their customers, face to face, explain their wares and answer questions. Shoppers get to see and learn about many interesting products and processes. We were looking for breakfast.

In and around the community center building is where the market is held. It didn’t take us long to find the inside table of baked goods, manned by a couple of local ladies. They were selling all kinds of pastries, quiches, brownies… it all looked like breakfast to us. I bought a pastry and a generous slice of something made with egg, cheese, potato, veggies and pasta. I’m glad we got there when we did because their table was sold out by the time I came back hoping for a brownie. Oh well.

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Music, island style.
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Island produce – good stuff.
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Fresh seafood, cooked on the spot – a popular place.

There were vendors selling crafts as well as food. A potter, some water color artists, some jewelry makers, all gave us shoppers something to look at and consider. There was a trio of musicians providing festive tunes – way better than “elevator music”. Around the perimeter were tables and chairs for eating and visiting. The sun was shining, children were playing, laughter and conversation abounded. Makes you want to go there, doesn’t it? Maybe you should find a farmer’s market near you and check it out this week!

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Yes, they got the last brownie (but they shared).

The Keto Plate: Almost too Pretty

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Almost too pretty to eat, but no.  Almost too healthy to taste good, but again, no. It was delicious.

As part of my quest for better health for my husband and myself, we have been learning about the ketogenic diet, the Paleo diet, the Autoimmune Protocol, and food in general. We’ve been picking and choosing things that are easy to do, changes we can make gradually and, honestly, most of the changes are just common sense. It seems the less our food is tampered with, clean and unprocessed, the better it is for us.

The plates above held dinner for the husband and I one night. It is usually a light meal, eaten as early in the evening as we can manage, and is our last food for the day.  The greens, boiled egg and cauliflower are definite keto foods (on the “yes” list). The onion, bell pepper, tomato and cheese are on the “limit” list. A good dose of olive or avocado oil and a flavorful vinegar, a sprinkle of sea salt and pepper, add to the preparation ritual.

We also have a gratitude ritual before our meal. We pray and thank God for providing such blessings. We know not everyone has access to even simple meals like this.

We relax as we eat. I remind myself to chew slowly and put my fork down between bites. I look at the colors and shapes. These onions are so amazing to look at. They’re purple!

I love to taste the blends of flavors and see how many I can isolate, identify.

The more I know about food and the way my body interacts with it, the more I am conscious of its protective and restorative qualities.  At the same time, being able to identify food that is not good for me, and knowing why it isn’t, helps me avoid it without feeling deprived.

Eating keto, is not only a lifestyle that focuses on unprocessed, low net carb foods and healthy sources of fat,  but it’s actually kind of an attitude of wanting to protect the only body you’ve been given.  I’m glad it’s becoming more mainstream as the evidence mounts showing its effectiveness against cancer and chronic disease.

Today I am thankful that food is colorful, imaginative in structure, varied in it’s composition and taste. Food can be art. Chefs can be artists, and sitting down to a beautiful meal can be as satisfying as strolling through an art gallery.

Food is medicine, and eating the best food you can, every time you can, is how you be your own best health advocate.

Do you have a favorite mealtime ritual or practice?

 

 

 

Keto Plate – Today’s Breakfast “Win”

I was in a terrible food fog yesterday. A food fog is paralyzing. It means you have nothing to eat that really appeals to you, mixed with a bit of fear that there is something detrimental about every choice you might make. We have read so much lately about the AIP for autoimmune issues, the MMT for mitochondrial health, the Grain Brain whole life plan to ward off Alzheimers, the Paleo ”eat like your ancestors” diet, and the Ketogenic anti-cancer diet that we could almost give up on food altogether (if we were not so hungry). There are similarities between them all but they don’t intersect completely, and each one of them seems to do away with one of my favorite foods. Boo.

I realized that having to fix something for myself and the husband to eat was causing enough anxiety to become its own problem. I decided that since we were fearfully and wonderfully made (no lie) that I’d just give the problem to God. My prayer went something like this:

God, make us hungry for the things that are good for us, that are available and as unpolluted as possible, and let us not obsess about figuring it all out. Help us to be smart in our choices, but also trusting that you are smarter and will keep us healthy as long as you need us to be. Amen.

(I don’t know if it’s the Spirit’s leading or not but cupcakes are suddenly on my mind… probably not him.)

I’m feeling a bit better today. I replenished my supply of grass fed beef yesterday and did some cooking. I also had a breakfast “win” this morning. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it in cookbooks so I’m going to share it here.

There’s been much said about using cauliflower as a substitute for mashed potatoes or rice – same color and general consistency when cooked and blenderized- but how about substituting it for grits? Being raised in northern climates I’ve never done a lot of cooking with grits but I’ve had some I really liked, so this is what I did:

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Nothing precise about measurements here. Steamed cauliflower keeps well in the fridg for several days.

Cauliflower florets, steamed and pureed in blender with

Cream or Half ‘n Half, just enough to keep the food moving in the blender

1 Tbs. of butter, added to blender to melt in

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This happens to be about 4 cups cauliflower and 1/3 cream.

 

1 egg, lightly cooked in butter, not hard

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Mmmmh… so good, and cauliflower “grits” left over for next time.

Put desired amount of cauliflower for one serving in a bowl, dot with another pat of butter and put the egg on top. A little pepper makes it pretty, and salt if you don’t have reason to avoid it. This was so good, so quick (because the cauliflower was left over and already prepared) and a very good nutrient profile for anyone following a ketogenic program (or not – good no matter what!)

How is your eating going today?

Health Advocacy: Today’s Ketogenic Plate

A ketogenic diet is a low carb, high fat (healthy fats) way of eating. It is similar to a Paleo diet and also has some things in common with the AIP (autoimmune protocol). We are eating this way for weight loss reasons, but it is also a cancer fighting therapy. I’m always running short of ideas on what to make for dinner, so when I do come up with something good, I might as well share it. Right?

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We both had plenty for dinner and there were leftovers for the husband’s lunch tomorrow.

Today’s Ketogenic Plate

This meal starts with ½ of pasture fed ground beef. It’s left over from last night when the husband cooked dinner for me. This doesn’t happen a lot, but I had the procedure on my hand to deal with so he gave me a break. A quarter pound per person is plenty when it comes to red meat, especially if you are eating keto for cancer therapy.

The ground beef is really the only thing I had a measure for. The rest of the ingredients can be whatever you have on hand. My pan contains:

2 large Portobello caps, cut in chunks

1 medium onion, cut in chunks

2 stalks of celery, sliced

4 cloves of garlic, sliced

Broccoli, about 2 cups

And cherry tomatoes, for color appeal

Brown the ground beef. In a large pan, melt 2 Tbs. of butter and saute the mushroom pieces. When they started looking dry I put in some avocado oil, another healthy fat.  Add the onion garlic and celery and continue cooking on medium heat for 5 minutes. When the ground beef is browned, add it to the pan. I added the broccoli next and covered the pan to let it steam for another 5 minutes. At the very end I added the tomatoes because I like as many colors in our meal as possible.  Seasoning is to taste and done at the table in our house so each person knows what he’s eating.

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I love this salad and eat it last. It’s almost like dessert.

Add a salad with romaine, cucumber and kiwi for Wednesday’s ketogenic plate.

 

Our journey to eating “keto” has been helped by these resources: “The Grain Brain Whole Life Plan” by Dr. David Perlmutter, “Fat for Fuel” by Dr. Joseph Mercola, “The Paleo Approach” by Sarah Ballantyne, PhD and “The Ketogenic Kitchen” by Domini Kemp and Patricia Daly

 

 

Being Your Own Health Advocate: Food

I can see a series of posts taking form on this subject, since I don’t want any of them to be overly long. I’m going to keep coming back to the subject because my passion is growing…

It’s fuel.

I don’t cook for fun. I cook because people have to eat. It’s more about fuel for life than what it used to be – for me anyway.

I didn’t used to think about food very much at all in my younger years. If it tasted good, I ate it. I knew about the rudiments of nutrition and ate what I thought was good for me, along with other things that I knew probably weren’t. My philosophy was that happiness was like a medicine, and if a food made me happy, it was probably canceling out any poor nutritional qualities. I had the benefit of growing up on a farm where my family grew/raised a lot of unprocessed food too. I was seldom sick and never had a problem with weight control.

For a few years in the early 2000’s I worked for the FNP, Food and Nutrition Program, of the University Extension Service of the University of Florida. I started taking the Food Pyramid, dictated by the government food police (kidding) into elementary schools and teaching it to youngsters. I taught Nutrition and Food Preparation to young mothers in a Head Start program. I started becoming aware of the problems Americans were having with food. Obesity at young ages, hyperactivity and ADHD were prevalent in so many schoolrooms.  Even when presented with a decent school lunch, children were turning up their noses and throwing away the most nutritious foods. Often families in trouble with Social Services were being court ordered to learn how to prepare meals to feed their children properly.

By default, people were eating the Standard American Diet, acronym SAD, and it was sad. When I started having health problems that I could relate to diet and lifestyle, I started getting a bit more serious about what I fed myself.  The overweight husband also developed problems with blood pressure and needed medicines which were hard to regulate. Friends and family members started getting diagnoses of GERD and cancer and diabetes. Time started wearing out our natural defenses. I began to hear more about food as therapy. I also began hearing about how many times nutritional advice was influenced by factors other than benefits to health – like, who decides what the Food Pyramid looks like and funny how it keeps changing…

I guess what I think now can be illustrated with the example of a machine, say a really nice new car.  If I take it in on schedule to be serviced I’m doing good. But, the thing that I do most often, and that will make the most difference, is to put fuel in it. Different cars have different fuel requirements that are important to follow. If I put in a grade of gasoline other than what is recommended for clean burning, I’m going to see problems after a while. Waste products build up in the engine.  The car gets sick.

Friends, readers, we are that complex, finely designed machine. Our computer, our emissions systems, our energy production equipment, our whole body is affected by every little thing we put in our mouth.

We are designed to take a lot of nutritional abuse – there are buffering systems, safeguards of all kinds in place – but sooner or later those back-up systems will have taken all the abuse that they can. If we don’t want to be sick or prematurely dead, we must study what’s happening in our “machine” with the fuels we use.

This was the beginning of my journey into food research and the resulting health trends. I don’t have to spend hours at it. I don’t have to spend a lot of money to do it. I don’t have to wait until I’m sick with a serious problem. I don’t have to ask my doctor for every new pill I see advertised in the media.  I eat every day, and that is where the changes should, and can, start.

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I’m not necessarily recommending any of these older books – some of the best and newest information is free on the internet, or at the library.

I started by saying that I don’t cook for fun, when I actually do have fun doing it sometimes. But fun is not the main point anymore. Getting the best fuel possible has become the point, just sayin’…

 

 

Your Best Advocate

Of course I’d like to be a better writer. For a while, as I try to be better, I’m going to at least try to be prolific. They say that if you write a lot, you have a much better chance that some of it will be good. If you write seldom (or not at all), none of it will be, so be writing. That’s my goal.

 

You have to be your own health care advocate. If you find that impossible, make one good choice – someone you trust to advocate for you. This is not a new revelation to me, but newly reinforced by my recent wellness checkup with my primary care office.

I’m somewhat of a rebel, offspring of a family that believed that 99% of what’s wrong with us heals itself if not aggravated by medicine. This mindset was pretty well in place in my high school years so I don’t know what made me choose nursing as a career. It was mostly that I was fascinated by how complex human anatomy, biology and physiology were, and because someone gave me “Cherry Ames, Student Nurse” for Christmas one year. Cherry was the medical world’s answer to Nancy Drew.

Nursing has given me an inside look into the strange reasons why some things are done the way they are. The reasons are many and complex. You can’t always figure them out. What’s more, sooner or later, what’s good for you is going to come into conflict with what’s good for someone else. It’s nice to know at that point if you have options and what they are.

The husband and I are at the age where we have more time to devote to our physical condition, and it’s a good thing being that it’s also the age where there’s some new thing going wrong every week. We are still moving around under our own steam and able to read so we are researching. I read to him in the evenings, after we walk, and we discuss health issues and diets, sleep, exercise, medicines – all of that.

Without going into too much detail in this post, suffice it to say that we see a lot of new research that flies in the face of traditional thought about these issues. It seems that what we’ve been doing traditionally for the last half century or so has created an epidemic of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and depression. Oh, and Alzheimer’s dementia. Oh, and autism. Oh, and autoimmune disorders. And cancer. At some fundamental level, we are a very sick country.

Having decided to get smarter about simple things we could do to help ourselves avoid as much sickness as possible, we are starting with eating differently.

I was sitting with the PA who was doing my wellness questionnaire and telling him some of these things. I told him how I was limiting carbohydrates by cutting out most bread and sources of sugar. I mentioned ketogenic diet and how I’d lost ten pounds on it.  I told how it was a high fat, moderate protein, lo-carb diet, and that I was feeling pretty good overall. He nodded and appeared to be listening (how do I know what he’s thinking…). We talked about stress relief and I told him that I dispelled it by writing for my blog. Then he wrapped up the interview with “Okay, just keep doing what you’re doing and keep on that low fat diet.” Sigh.

Traditional advice is not always for everyone. Sometimes, it’s not even true or based on real evidence. I’m going to end this post in the same way I started it. You have to be your own health care advocate because no one doctor or health professional can concentrate on what’s good for you. You are it.

More to come on this and related subjects.

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Blood pressure gradually creeping up – that’s what first caught my attention. Just sayin’…

Miracle Coffee

wp-1488932380243.jpgThere’s a lot going on these days for first world coffee drinkers. For instance, I myself have become disdainful of weak coffee or coffee served without half and half.  There are many people even more selective than myself who won’t drink anything other than specific brands of premium organic coffees, single origin and preferably fair trade. We even need a good coffee glossary of terms to figure out what all this means.

Just this week my pastor, in the Sunday morning service, apologized for the brand of coffee served at the church welcome center and announced an upgrade to come.  I don’t fault him for this, in fact it is a smart move given that the church welcomes many young, upwardly mobile coffee drinkers every week. First impressions count and there’s no reason Christians shouldn’t be on the cutting edge of coffee.

But, in spite of all these gourmet trends, I often think back to an incident years ago that has always amazed and instructed me. The scene was a wedding held in our back yard. As concierge of the event I had oversight of refreshment tables, including the coffee bar.  It was evening, and we were serving decaf from a large silver coffee urn with a convenient spigot. It came out cup by cup, dark and steaming. Lots of people were enjoying it and remarking how good it was. They were asking what kind and where I had gotten it. I would smile and pretend it was  secret, exclusive stuff when, actually, it was Folgers from the green plastic container hidden under the skirt of the table.

So, what was going on here that made it so delicious? Probably several things – a perfect offset for the sweetness of wedding cake, the right temperature, the good company in which to drink it, the general happiness of the occasion, the mystery of it all on a special evening, hearing the accolades of other coffee drinkers… Of course there is one other possibility which I can’t discount. There was a wedding spoken of in the Bible where water was turned into wine of the best quality.  Wow, maybe we were at a wedding where Folgers was turned into fair trade, single origin, organic brew! Why not a little coffee miracle? Just sayin’… it could happen.