Thursday, August 23, 2007


Coffee has always been a staple here in the mountains. All my family was, and are, coffee drinkers. Granny kept a pot of coffee on all the time. Fresh coffee for breakfast then the grounds removed and scattered in the garden or flower bed, then the big enamel pot was put on the warmer on the wood stove for whoever came by or returned during the day for a cup of coffee.

As I think back to the way folks drank their coffee, I notice that today nothing has changed much in the way one prepares his treasured “cup”. Granny always drank her coffee black. Papa and mama stirred in cream and sugar. Uncle Ed would fill his cup almost half full with cream, add sugar and stir it up, then fill the cup with coffee. Then he would pour it out in a saucer and slurp it from the saucer. Papa always said Uncle Ed drank a little coffee in his milk. My uncle Walter Buckner also poured his hot coffee in a saucer, blew on it to cool it, and then drank it out of the saucer. We had fresh cream and it sure made the coffee taste much different than the powdered cream that is added now. There was also “Postum” in a can, which was substitute coffee made out of molasses and wheat, etc., but we never drank any of that. There is also “instant” coffee, but I never could get it to taste right. When Ma Maw ran the Street Car Diner in Marshall, you could get a cup of coffee for a nickel, with unlimited refills.

Mama would always fix her cup (cream and sugar…later one of those tiny saccharin pills when they became available) and drink on it all day. It didn’t matter if it were cold, hot, warm or somewhere in between. She would drink ‘til the cup was empty, then fix her another cup and drink on that the rest of the day. Papa always had to have his hot. If it got the least bit cold, he would pour it out and perk another pot. Pa Paw Canter (my grandfather-in-law), would drink his right out of the spout almost. I’ve never since seen anyone drink their coffee that hot.

We had a good friend who carried the rural mail. He would stop back by his house and pour himself another cup of cold coffee and crumble a biscuit in it. As long as he lived, he always drank another cup of coffee along about 11 o’clock in the day with a biscuits that Louise had made before he went to work early that morning. When mama taught school at Flat Creek, she would go to the teacher’s lounge each morning and pour a cup of coffee. She would drink on that until lunch, pour herself another cup and sip on that. She had a plant in her room and at the end of the day if there was any coffee left, she poured it into that plant. It grew to the ceiling and was so green and full. I guess even plants like their coffee. I remember JFG coffee that came in the can. When the A&P was in Marshall, mama started buying 8 o’clock coffee beans. We were thrilled that A&P had a coffee grinder and we could pour in the beans and grind them up. Even if you didn’t care much for coffee, that smell would make you crave a cup. When we went to the lake or the creek fishing, Uncle Ed would take some ground coffee, put it in a pan with water and boil it over the fire. That was some strong coffee. He said coffee weren’t no good unless it would float a number 9 horseshoe. One sip of that and you would be wide awake this time tomorrow. That was the beginning of Espresso, I suppose.

The way we drink coffee has changed a lot over the years. There are specialty coffee shops that serve only coffee, many, many different flavors of coffee and most times at about five dollars a cup (Styrofoam). They invented de-caf coffee with the caffeine removed for those that don’t drink coffee to stay awake. There are about as many flavors of “cream” you can add to your coffee to make it taste like this or that or the other. Even sugar has changed. You can add refined sugar, unrefined sugar, substitute sugar, turbinado sugar. There are so many flavors added to coffee and to cream, they whip it, froth it, ice it and generally dilute a good cup of coffee until you can barely taste the coffee in it. When we were in Italy last year, their coffee was even stronger than Uncle Ed’s campfire coffee. It was so strong and thick, it wouldn’t pour out of the cup, and you had to drink it with a spoon, like syrup. Don’t leave the spoon in the cup, or it would melt the spoon.

I love coffee in summer, when you can take your freshly brewed cup of coffee and go outside in the quiet, sit on the porch, listen to the birds and enjoy your cup. My mind takes me back to those days on the creek bank with that bitter, strong cup of coffee with my Uncle Ed, the aroma could be smelled for miles, sitting with mama on her front porch rocking, drinking coffee and talking, Granny Doshey using her apron as a pot holder to carry that big enamel coffee pot from the stove to the table. Such wonderful memories and so blessed am I to have them. I wonder if young folks today will have such sweet memories when they go in Starbucks and smell that wonderful smell.

Written by: Judy Ricker