A small drink is for savoring

Years ago when I was in college, I was in a special singing group at the University of Illinois called The Other Guys. In one year, we sang a hundred or more shows in the Midwest, on the West Coast, and in Europe. It was an exhilarating time for the eight of us.

On a trip to the San Francisco area, we sang for a distinguished group of Illinois alumni and had a ball hobnobbing at the St. Francis Yacht Club on the bay. We felt like big shots. Although we had a sumptuous dinner there, I can’t for the life of me recall a single thing we had. The food was surely good but must have been unremarkable. We were among strangers.

What I do remember well, and it made a sizable impression on me, was a single shot of espresso.

The scene:

My best Other Guy friend, Mike, and I were hosted for two nights by a husband-wife pair of surgeons who lived on a swanky ridgeline overlooking the city and bay area. The first morning, we arose to find a lovely breakfast on a spare table facing an entire windowed wall. Beyond the glass were the city, the bay, and the distant mountains:

View of San Francisco from Diamond Heights
The view at breakfast was much like this.

The male Dr. M. (host) invited us to sit and produced a single shot of piping hot espresso for each of us and himself. They were presented in the little ceramic demitasses customary for espresso, each accompanied by a pair of sugar cubes and a sliver of lemon rind. Neither Mike nor I had ever tasted espresso, so Dr. M. gave us a tutorial:

First, twist the peel to break the cells and rub the oils on the rim of the cup. Check.

Second, sip the espresso carefully—it’s hot!

Third, hold a cube just so one corner contacts the surface of the coffee. Watch it leech upward to saturate the cube (fascinating). Decide what you want to do: either drop it into the cup or pop it into your mouth.

Finish what remains in peace and contentment.

In that way, we shared wonderful, warm conversation and learned a little bit about savoring—a strong, flavorful treat, a view, one’s companions, and an everyday moment that can be special every day. This was a big lesson for me which I try to employ as regularly as possible.

Pic of mocha maker
A good moka maker. Italians differentiate between moka and espresso.

FWIW, I don’t have an espresso machine (I’m holding out for a real one, a very expensive one). I do have an Italian mocha brewer. It’s an excellent and inexpensive stand-in. I’m still waiting to get that Diamond Heights view out my own window.

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