Thursday, March 26, 2009


I am in Seattle, partly because on Sunday I am teaching an all-day, intensive writing seminar ("Planning Your Novel") at Hugo House. I like Seattle. It's vibrant, varied, built around lots of water, and hilly (great views). But I think they're a little nuts about coffee.

Yesterday I was walking along Queen Anne Avenue when I saw a big sandwich-board sign outside a cafe -- "Shade-Grown Fair-Trade Organic Espresso!" Never in Rochester have I seen all these qualities together as a major selling point. At dinner parties, people debate the quality of Starbucks, Seattle's Best, Green Mountain, and the specialty coffees I never heard of. They debate this seriously. They debate it at great length.

I feel left out of this culture. As someone who is fine with Nescafe instant, and who would probably drink axle grease if it contained caffeine, the only thing I can offer is erudition: The word "coffee" entered the English language late in the sixteenth century from an Arabic word meaning "wine of the bean." In England, it was initially sipped from a dish, not a cup. Honore de Balzac died of caffeine poisoning (he was up to 50 cups a day of that strong French coffee, which induced an irreversible heart arrhythmia). None of this information makes up for my low-rent coffee tastes, at least not in Seattle.

On the other hand, the West Coast knows nothing about good bagels. Nothing!


Andrew said...

I live in Seattle, and yes, they are serious about coffee here. I'm a transplant from elsewhere so I likewise am not a coffeehead. Difficult to say which is worse: an instant-drinker like yourself, or someone who doesn't drink coffee at all (me).

They also know nothing of decent Mexican food, though there is some decent Thai.

Jack said...

Wow, Nan, sounds like you've had too much caffeine! Mellow out a little and enjoy the view.

As for Mexican Restaurants, Andrew, have you tried Momma's Kitchen?

Miki said...

I'm another non-coffee-drinking Seattle-ite -- I've been here a decade, and people still look at me funny over it. :p I do miss good bagels, though.

While I miss the gazillions of good Mexican options we had in Austin, I wouldn't go so far as to say that Seattle knows nothing of decent Mexican food -- I'd consider Luisa's up in north Seattle to be a few steps above decent, and there are a few others I enjoy as well. Mmmmmmm....

qiihoskeh said...

Having lived a couple decades in Little Havana, I have trouble taking Starbucks seriously. That even seems to be true of people up here in North Miami: the local one didn't last very long. In this county, nobody talks about coffee, they just drink it.