We sit in coffee shops and strategize our coffee orders the way people strategize rounds of drinks in bars.
I’ll get the first set? Sure. Another round? The same? Yes please. Or, I’ll actually get a cappuccino this time. It is conversations like this, memories so simple and so commonplace they barely registered at the time and I couldn’t help but take for granted, that float into my mind this morning, 8 a.m., pre-Zoom class, coffee cup in hand. The ability to breeze into a coffee shop, order, and sit for hours now seems light-years away.
Going for coffee has been, in my life, an indisputable aspect of every friendship. It is how I make bonds. Being a coffee addict is an intrinsic part of my personality, to the humor of friends and the concern of my parents. It is over coffee that I disclose my deepest worries, my public humiliations, my newest philosophies, my sweeping confessions. An iced oat latte must be accompanied with either gossip, tears, or laughter. If I meet someone who doesn’t drink coffee, we bicker about why not (tell me your secret?).
To know me is to know my obsession with a drink which, frankly, makes me a nicer person in the morning. I don’t claim to be a coffee expert. I couldn’t tell you why there are various degrees of ground-ness. I’m not quite sure why the amount of foam changes the name of the drink. I probably can’t taste the difference between a cappuccino and a latte. I certainly can’t be bothered to weigh beans each morning and freshly grind them. But I do know what tastes good to me. Sometimes I make it too dark, sometimes I accidentally add too much milk.
For me, this ritual means sharing. These catch-ups are compassionate, nurturing, caring. Maybe I skipped my morning coffee that day to save my daily caffeine for you. Maybe you cycled over the river to meet me at a new café we wanted to try. Maybe we spent far too much money on Americanos from a tourist trap cafe in Hyde Park, which was burnt and disgusting, but we laughed so much it remains one of my favorite coffees ever. Maybe you don’t drink coffee, so we had tea instead alongside the rocky road I made and brought you. Maybe we sat on your bed after your surgery, and your parents brought us cappuccinos whilst I told you about the boy I was in love with at the time (hindsight: revolting). These are fragments of my life, my friendships, and they are without a doubt the highlight of my day.
But having coffee is also about my friendship with myself. Something that makes me feel better when I’m having a shitty day. A cup in hand makes me feel more like me, comforts me when traveling, battles my anxiety when meeting new people, encourages me when struggling through every paper. And coffee has accompanied me through every transition, including this one from New York to remote classes. Coffee has become an amusing participant in every morning class, watching people assemble their desired brew in the comfort of their own homes. A conversation starter. With the future so uncertain, it’s a blessing to have something which keeps me grounded within daily reach, no matter how far away from home I am, and no matter how bizarre the circumstances. When the daily news and pressure for communication await each morning, there is a beauty in the moment just before, standing by my kettle and taking that first sip. A moment that is, and will always be, just for me.
In keeping with the simplicity of the above, my recipe this week is for pancakes, partly out of nostalgia, partly out of laziness, but mostly because pancakes are just good. If anything other than coffee is getting you out of bed in the morning, I can guarantee it’ll be the smell of pancakes, sizzling away in butter. I like my pancakes crispy on the outside but fluffy on the inside, doused in butter and maple syrup, and served with blueberries and strawberries. If you’re going to do it, you may as well do it right. I use Nigella Lawson’s recipe, which has always worked wonderfully for me. If you toy around with this, I’d love to hear how you experimented. There are endless possibilities for culinary play here, from toppings to add-ins to swap-ins. Have fun!
FLUFFY AMERICAN-STYLE PANCAKES
-2, 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
-1 pinch salt
-1 teaspoon white sugar
-2 large eggs, beaten
-30 grams melted butter, plus extra for frying
-300 milliliters milk
-225 grams plain flour
The list goes on…!
In a large bowl, add your dry ingredients. Mix together.
Make a well in the flour mixture, and add your beaten eggs, milk, and melted butter. Mix all ingredients until they just barely come together—if you overmix, you’ll develop gluten which means a tougher pancake!
Heat a frying pan with some butter.
Add the batter to the pan, and cook one side until you see lots of bubbles rise to the top. That’s how you know it’s time to flip! Flip, and cook for another minute or so.
You can keep cooked pancakes warm in a low oven, but I say eat them as soon as they’re ready.