Between coffee and Coke

How do you like your coffee? More specifically, what do you put in it? When a friend posed this question on Facebook, I saw it as more than just a question. To me, it was a writing prompt. I couldn’t wait to respond. Then I saw the many other responses. What is it about food that gets people talking? What is it about coffee that so many can relate to?

This week, I’m using Coffeemate’s hazelnut creamer every morning. It has 35 calories per serving and is made with sugar, vegetable oil, and carrageenan. What is carrageenan?

All I know is that it’s like having Starbucks for one five-hundredth of the price. Or something like that. Math isn’t my strong suit. Also, with Coffeemate, I don’t have to stand in line behind a group of middle-schoolers staring at cellphones and talking about, like, really banal stuff, while they wait for strawberry frappuccinos. What is it about waiting in line that breeds misanthropy? Or maybe it’s just waiting in line when you’re thirsty for a $5 coffee, hating yourself because, you know what? You are just like them. You have nothing better to do than to wait in line for coffee.

Hook your reader with a rhetorical question. That’s one of the things we say when we teach writing. I’ve been doing it for so long I didn’t know it was officially a technique. I can’t say I never met a writing prompt I didn’t like, but I can say that food is a topic that gets people going. Food. Weather. Traffic. Animals. Probably in that order. You want to turn everyone off? Start talking about taxes.

In creative writing, we traded prompts. A teenager threw in, “a day without coffee.” When I was young, teenagers didn’t drink coffee. I didn’t start until after college. I attribute coffee’s rise in popularity among the hip and trendy crowd, locally, to the opening of a number of Starbucks stores. They never would consider drinking the mudwater their tired and stressed out parents make at 6 a.m. every day. But put some flavored sugar in it and serve it with a cake pop. Now that is something special.

Presentation is key. I can’t cook, but I can serve coffee and cookies. With enough notice, I can serve coffee in a pretty cup with a saucer to match. I take great solace in that, because sometimes, I can imagine getting lonely.

I told my mom I was turning into her. I’m up in the middle of the night with leg spasms.

“Stop with the caffeine,” she said.

I knew she was right.

So I’m back down to one cup a day. But I cheat a little with tea and sometimes even Coke. Isn’t that horrible? I. Drink. Soda. Sometimes.

Another one of my Facebook friends posts a healthy recipe. Thirty-five comments in response. What does it say about my peer group that we get all excited about healthy food? Does it mean I’m where I’m supposed to be now? Does it mean I’m with the good people, who try to do what’s right?

Don’t tell them I drank a Coke.


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