From campfire coffee to Starbuck’s is long haul

Campf ire cof fee was my introduction to that brand of caffeine at age 12. Like most good native Texans, I’d been inoculated via the iced tea variety almost by the time I could walk.

Addiction to the coffee version didn’t come until cramming for college tests necessitated burning midnight oil and sometimes pulling an all-nighter of study drudgery. My first cup of that gosh-awful campfire java was enough to postpone addiction until those wonderful collegiate days, er, uh, nights.

It was a thrill of my sub-teen days for Dad to include me in one of his infrequent participations in the rural Texas ritual of fox hunting. What made it even more meaningful was that Dad had no intention of barreling through the woods with a lantern or flashlight following the hounds in their pursuit of the fox. He sat by the campfire and “listened to the music of the dogs.”

Some fox-hunting aficionados will tell you that is the greatest pleasure in a fox hunt. Just sounded like yelping, barking and baying to me, but I didn’t dare raise any objections while on a rare special outing with Dad. At any rate, along about the witching hour of midnight (long past my bedtime), Dad noticed I was involved in a serious case of the nods, so he suggested I might want to drink a cup of the campfire coffee. While coffee brewing had always smelled good to me, Mother forbade her children drinking it with a nebulous “until you’re old enough.”

I’d watched Dad and his foxhunting compatriots “prepare” that keep-your-eyes-open elixir and it didn’t look enticing.

First, the pot was huge (probably held a couple of gallons) — big at the bottom, tapering to the top where there was the required spout and a lid. Then, the hunter-in- charge- of- coffee dumped what seemed like several pounds into the pot followed by a huge amount of water. Then it sat on some hot coals at one edge of the fire and the “biling” began in earnest. It smelled great, but handling the pot required a gloved hand.

When it was finished “ biling,” hunters lined up for a cup. Everyone drank it black because, I guessed, “real men” didn’t bring cream and sugar on a fox hunt. So, Dad poured me a cup, which I soon discovered had more than its share of grounds. That provoked a round of coughing and spitting. But, not wanting Dad to think I couldn’t qualify for another fox hunt, I bravely sipped on it for an hour or so until he suggested I pour it on the huge campfire.

That was enough to keep me from imbibing again until that great college tradition of nostudying until-the-night-beforethe exam. Midnight mumbling and sunrise stammering while cramming was enough to induce the ultimate caffeine addiction. Plus, you didn’t dare nod off in the exam class the next day. Not only did you consume enough coffee to get you through the night, it had to keep you wideeyed through a full morning of classes.

However, modernity in coffee appreciation has overcome those rough-hewn campfire days and mind- and energy-sapping college cramming nights. First, there was the advent of Starbuck’s in metropolitan Texas, then came the introduction of one-cup brew units of various coffee varieties and f lavors. Traditional coffee producers have been forced into developing those to enable them to compete with the accursed Starbuck’s.

Then, at Christmas, our son gave us a new coffee-makingmachine which uses these little one- cup serving packages. So, Julie can have a cup of Gloria Jean’s Hazelnut while I saucerand blow Folger’s Gourmet Black Silk. Yeah, I know that’s some kind of language contradiction — “saucer-and-blow Gourmet Black Silk.”

An invitation today to attend a night of fox hunting and the prospect of campfire coffee would prompt me to ask if there was an electrical outlet so I could take my coffee-maker and a night’s supply of Gourmet Black Silk.

That probably would incur a withdrawal of the invitation.

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