Log Cabin Chronicles

greg duncan

© 1998 John Mahoney

The Gallivanting Gourmand

Give me another cuppa


As the popularity of coffee drinking grew, the coffee house became a centre of political and cultural life in seventeenth century Europe. The House of Commons, in London, however, classified coffee as an "outlandish drink" and an act of parliament required all coffee houses to be licensed and imposed a tax on every gallon of coffee sold --- Excerpt from The World Atlas of Food, published by Spring Books.

Plus ça change, plus c'est pareil, as the saying goes here in Quebec where a recent trip to the store saw my regular choice of coffee not increase in price but the size of its package shrink. A cunning method of eye deception that leaves consumers paying more for less once again.

The weight of the contents of a package reveals the sorry truth. Buyers beware. We are in the age of shrinkage and your spouse may proclaim "Honey, I shrunk the coffee."

Prices of a cup of java at restaurants are always shocking but recently I was taken aback by a Tim Horton's outlet where, upon ordering a cappuccino, I was offered a choice of either vanille française or caramel anglaise.

What gives? Who decided that vanilla was French and caramel English?

Is this another Office de la langue française idea? I am tempted to request Vanille Anglaise the next time I go there. Only in Quebec, I say (although the fact is that the French do use a lot of vanilla in their food preparations).

You may have noticed the proliferation of all manner of coffees lately and the choices can be daunting to the uninitiated. Half-caf, double latté, single low fat, mezzo, and mochaccino -- they all give that jolt you crave. It stands to reason then, that if you crave it, it will be expensive.

If, like me, you are a java junkie then I suggest you budget at least $20 a month to get your fix. Try a Vietnamese ice coffee if you can. A French roast finely ground and pressed into a thick syrup that when combined with a little sweetened condensed milk and poured over a tall glass of ice can't be beat to get you through the afternoon.

You may get the jitters, though, and they can only be tempered by another glass. All this to say that coffee can provide one of life's greatest pleasure.

Try a dark French roast in your coffee pot if you don't have an espresso or cappuccino machine. Use less water than you usually would and add a splash of fine brandy and a slice of orange with a little sugar for a Café Napoléon or add a little Irish whiskey and a dollop of whipped cream for a traditional Irish Coffee.

I've even added a splash of fresh maple syrup at the sugar shack to celebrate the spring thaw and the annual gathering of sap. Let's hope it's running soon.

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