It really shouldn’t be so difficult to make a reasonable cup of breakfast coffee. I know I speak from the privileged, entitled position of having a coffee machine primed and more or less ready to furnish me with my super-caffeinated morning latte – yes I know that’s an oxymoron – at the touch of a whim or fancy. Indeed, knowing me as the Queen of the Unnecessary but Desirable Gadget,* you won’t be surprised to hear that my new kitchen will contain an integrated super-duper luxury bells and whistles bean-to-cup coffee machine. In short, I’m spoilt, I know that.
But if I ask for coffee, I’m not going to sneer at someone who politely provides me with a cup of their best Nescafé. Not publicly, anyway, as that would be rude. Here, in the heart of the Indian countryside, Instant is the height of sophistication and I am grateful that it exists.
Indians however, have their own way of concocting hot, stimulant beverages: they put everything – coffee (or tea,) milk, sugar, spices to taste – in a pan and simply boil the hell out of them.
Not a single host in this country that I’ve ever met can for one second understand the decadent European way of using cold milk in their morning drink. “But surely it gets cold?” they incredulously exclaim, contorting their faces in an expression of the utmost disgust, “Are there no depths to which this inexplicable swamp creature will not sink?”
They just don’t seem to understand how anyone could find the prospect of an infinitely self-perpetuating, shimmering, wrinkly skin floating at the top of one’s drink in any way out of the ordinary, still less vomit-inducing, which it does when you don’t expect milk skin to accompany its way over your lips, lingering there an unflattering veil of evil, with the first gulp of tea or coffee in the morning. Trust me, I know of which I speak. I guess it’s just one of those disgraceful “Western values,” overtaking the subcontinent, to be repelled at every manifestation.
I’m sure I’ve taken issue with the Indian concept of tea in a previous post. Now I’m moaning about the coffee.
This morning, to make sure I didn’t throw up in front of my fellow breakfasters in the dining room, I asked for a cup of hot coffee, with cold milk and no sugar. Forget a Bialetti espresso, a cheeky cappuccino, a luscious latte, I just wanted a morning cup of coffee.The exaggeratedly uncomprehending raised eyebrows of disgust I received in reply could have been responding to an interlocutor from Jupiter. The expression of the catering crew’s faces was as one, “We are sure she cannot mean what she says. Not only is she a woman but also a female from Foreign, so why should we pay any heed to her laughable notions? She obviously does not mean cold milk.”
I took a sip from the drink that eventually came and, with some difficulty, managed to retain it in my mouth. Cold coffee with milk. Not frappucino, it’s safe to say. I remonstrated. The second cup was identically cold. I took it back to the counter, explaining for a third time that I wanted hot coffee and cold milk. The fourth attempt was an empty cup with a flask that promised hot coffee but what remained in the flask (after, presumably, someone else had drunk their fill from their own personal grotto of hot coffee) was lukewarm. A second flask contained no more than six drops of cold milk.
Eventually I managed to persuade the reluctant, disbelieving staff that if they brought me hot coffee and cold milk, I promised I would drink the resulting combination, not matter how unconscionable. Two flasks came, one hot, one cold. I mixed the contents according to some silent, instinctive formula and drank my fill.
You know when someone makes coffee in a cafeteria and it goes around the table and eventually reaches you and you’re dealt the last little bit and your cup is full of coffee dregs but you don’t like to reject your host’s gracious hospitality? That. But hand-hot. I can still taste it this evening.
It has rained and blown various degrees of the Beaufort scale all day. If I did not come from a rainy country, I’d say that was an unreasonable amount of rain, but I have enough Irish Twitter friends to know that it buckets down there too. Only, here it’s warm rain and therefore not in the least unpleasant, except, perhaps to @Casserly_Rock.
I like monsoon time. Just as Indians seem to scuttle away from heavenly precipitation like colourful beetles – it it because it makes the hair curl? – I enjoy being out in it. It’s a dead refreshing contrast with oppressive heat.
The monsoon does seem to have caused more power outages than normal, though. We have back-up power generators (invertors) in our rooms but I was still plunged into irrevocable darkness for a while just before supper. I enquired about why I had no power or light whereas the televisions and lights in the the other rooms seemed to be carrying on regardless so someone came to look at my invertor. Apparently, the battery is low and nothing could be done about until the power came on…
Mr I-Know-Everything-About-You-Better-Than-You-Do and his pleasant enough wife decided to join me at my table for both breakfast and dinner. This is that man who, on first encountering me and my mother who had just arrived here for the first time last year in a state of extreme demented confusion and distress (and that was just me,) intoned aloud that flying from the UK was nowhere near as arduous as flying from Canada. I can see that he had a point but he’s one of those people who doesn’t rate tact as a conversational lubricant anywhere near as highly as being right. And of course, he’s always right. In India old men are always right.
I seem to meet an inordinate amount of these sorts of people, not just in India. I think I attract them. They must take one look at me and think, “Oh look, a new person we can go and impress with our knowledge of everything about her and what’s she and the fellow citizens of her country and doing wrong. Let us regale her with how wrong she and her values are, how right are ours. Let us dismiss her protestations for they are uninformed trivia: she can never be as good as we are.” I guess I must just have that sort of face.
Today Mr Himself was holding forth about food – I should explain that Dignity has a new cook whose food is, apparently, not all that – and I replied that I thought the soup often tastes of those Maggi stock cubes. “No,” he intoned, with some vehemence, “Packet food has now been thrown out of India. People in the UK eat only packet food.” When I replied that I didn’t think that was the case he insisted then, “Or is the UK now following India’s example? Do you always cook from scratch?” I do, mostly cook from scratch yes, but I did try to explain that sometimes there simply isn’t time to do so (what with not having servants and that) “Oh well all your food is full of preservatives and colourings and rubbish.”
I’ve given up arguing with these imperious people. They have no intention of listening anyway and, because they’re are always right, regardless of anything I might say, what’s the point in adding more vinegar to the milk of human kindness? So it is with the coffee thing: I’m always going to be wrong about this and they’re always going to be right. But frankly, I’d rather be a weirdo than a conformist.
*speaking of which, I’m deeply in love with my new Bose Soundlink wireless Bluetooth headphones. So useful for learning opera or listening – finally – to a year’s DumTeeDum podcasts.