I like coffee.
There, I said it. This will come as a surprise to anyone who knows me because I’ve spent a lifetime pronouncing my dislike of coffee in general. Except…I do love the smell of coffee being ground. I will stand in the coffee aisle of the grocery store and just inhale for several minutes.
I come from a family of coffee drinkers. My parents used to drink gallons of the stuff, black…straight up. No sugar or cream for them! I tried it once. It was so bitter I couldn’t stand it. Somehow the taste never lived up to the smell, so I stopped trying to drink it. I declared myself a non-coffee drinker and turned my nose up at any that was offered. Considering how hyperactive I was as a child I always figured that was a good thing. I didn’t need any caffeine to aid a body already in over-drive.
Other things I didn’t like: tomatoes, fish (particularly shell fish), rice, brussels sprouts and most green vegetables in general. My mother tells me I spent several years as a child eating only bologna sandwiches. For hamburgers it was always “mayonnaise, meat and bread.” Lettuce? Forget it! Tomatoes? Throw it out. Pickles? Eeewww!
When I started working at Dairy Queen as a teen I discovered there was more to food than I’d previously let myself experience. A lady with vivid red hair and a painted on smile ordered french fries, a side of pickles, and mayonnaise. I watched with consternation as she wrapped the french fry with a pickle, then dipped the thing in mayonnaise and declared it the best thing ever. That can’t possibly taste good, I thought. Still, she enjoyed it so much I just had to see for myself. Later in the day, when nobody was looking, I took a pickle (the flat hamburger slices), wrapped it around a fry and took a bite. Wow. It was my first foray into how pairing the right foods together can make a transcendent experience. Have you ever tried it? It’s like salt and vinegar potato chips (also an acquired taste). A hint of salt from the fry, the pickle tartness on the fried potato…smack lips! So then I thought…how about the mayonnaise? I tried it. Yes, instead of ketchup, I now like to dip my french fries in mayonnaise. Yes, I’m aware that takes an already ridiculously fattening food to new heights of fatness. I don’t eat it very often but when I do…yum!
It’s funny how tastes change as we age. What was unthinkable at 16 can become the best thing ever when you hit your 30s. Which bring me back to my sudden, inexplicable love for coffee.
It all started when my husband and I had to drive from Philly to Pittsburgh one weekend. I hadn’t had much sleep, and it’s a six hour drive. D suggested we stop at the first rest area, which contained a Starbucks. Since I didn’t drink coffee (nose in air), I had never frequented Starbucks. “Try a Frappuccino” he said. “It always keeps me awake on this drive.” It looked more like a shake than coffee so I thought sure, why not. The first sip wasn’t great. But I tried another. The taste shifted in my mouth from bitter to awesome. Mocha Light Frappuccino, come to mama! I sucked on that for the next few miles and by the time we reached Pittsburgh I was high on caffeine (the little that’s in there) and hooked.
I couldn’t get enough Frappuccinos. It was my crack cocaine. Everywhere we went, I insisted on finding the nearest
dealer Starbucks. Have you noticed how expensive Frappuccinos can be? The thought flickered in the back of my mind that maybe I should find a cheaper way to fuel my new found addiction. Another thought quickly followed: “You don’t like coffee, remember?” (Yes, I often have these conversations with myself.)
Then, this past weekend, I made my weekly jaunt for groceries and happened upon a lady handing out free samples of coffee. People from all over the store flocked to her stand and muttered happily over the tiny cup of black liquid. I stared at it and thought…nah. I won’t like it. She said “even people who think coffee is bitter like this coffee. Try it!”
Powerful words: Try It.
I took the small cup and added a generous portion of creamer to it. It turned a rich caramel color. I took a tentative sip. Hmmm, didn’t quite catch the taste. I took another. Warmth coated my throat and stomach and synapsis fired in my brain. This was good! Yummy in fact. I eagerly took another sip. And another. Then I thought maybe it was just the creamer that made it so good. So I took another tiny paper cup and this time I tried it without the cream. It was…delightful! It was black coffee and it was wonderful. Soothing, smooth, and comforting. It had a hazelnut flavor to die for.
Once I was blind, but now I see!
Apparently what I needed to like coffee was a good, flavored version with a dash of cream. Who knew?
These days I also like tomatoes, fish, and I’ve moved past my bologna fetish. I still don’t like brussels sprouts, but I can eat broccoli now without gagging and I’ve discovered I love asparagus. Tastes change. What a wonderful thing that is! Imagine how boring life would be, always eating and drinking the same tired things day in and day out. Never sticking a toe in the water. Closed off to new experiences.
I guess what I’m saying is the next time you are confronted by something you think you hate; try it. You might like it!