Thursday, April 14, 2011

You're The Cream In My Coffee

My morning cup 'o joe .  . . or whatever it is now.
Cancer changes you. When I was diagnosed with throat cancer, I was a swiller of black coffee. But radiation treatment left my throat ragged and raw, and black coffee no longer worked. So I experimented with various combinations of agents designed to mute black coffee’s shrill edge. I tried milk, half and half, heavy cream, fake sugar, real sugar, and then something new, something I call “Faux Cream.” 
    Deep in the darkest throes of cancer treatment, I found myself with a totally foreign problem. I lost interest in food. I lost an enormous amount of weight. I wore the same size jeans I had at age 20 -- which are no longer as flattering at age 60. Considering my body to be thinner than he believed to be healthy my oncologist suggested that I eat something preposterously fattening every day, like cheesecake, he suggested. Ugh, I said, not even on a good day! So just what does taste good to you? he asked. Coffee with Faux Cream. You know - the stuff they advertise on TV commercials with healthy-looking couples sharing steaming mugs of coffee, heavily doused with faux cream -- just like in a sophisticated coffee shop! I love that stuff! I told him. So drink lots of that, he said. Surely it’s full of calories.
    Suddenly Faux Cream was available everywhere! At the supermarket, of course, but also at CVS and Walgreen's, and even at the hospital where I spent four weeks having chemo infusions. My friend Brigitte, a secretary, regularly delivered to me large styrofoam cups of coffee laced with Faux Cream. They served it in the hospital cafeteria! For many weeks it was the only thing I could swallow.
Flowers in a Nescafe jar
    For months afterwards, I continued my love affair with coffee and Faux Cream. I dreamed of it every morning as I dragged my recovering body out of bed and into the kitchen. As my health and my appetite returned, I felt that I should go back to unadulterated coffee. To celebrate this return to normalcy my husband gave me a one-cup coffee maker for Christmas. Since I am the only coffee drinker in the house, it made sense that a single “pod” of coffee, expressed through the one-cup machine, would efficiently provide me with a freshly brewed cup of steaming hot coffee every time. There was a stunning array of flavors of pods to choose from. And I tried a dozen, at least, before I realized that the one-cup coffee maker, with its promise of great, black coffee was, in fact, so much weak tea. What makes my one-cup coffee maker such a flop is it’s inability to keep the coffee steaming hot. So those little cleverly designed pods of coffee grounds just didn’t have a chance to express themselves. At 50 cents a pop I want an expressive cup of coffee, capable of standing on its own, without the crutch of Faux Cream.
    Over a restaurant lunch one day, after I’d ordered my second cup of black coffee, a friend who is a doctor told me that he’d read that black coffee is believed by some to have a toxic effect on the tissues of the throat. Considering what my throat tissues have been through, it was a short trip back to my beloved Faux Cream, which comes in nonfat or non-sugared versions. Now my place of work features a great stainless steel box called the “Cow”, with three udder-like spouts, each delivering a different flavor of Faux Cream. Because of the exploding popularity of Faux Cream, the cow is often dry, particularly since it was discovered that the vanilla flavor is wonderful on instant oatmeal. Which led me to reason that instant coffee might serve as a cheap and flavorful conduit for the real deal, Faux Cream. Did you know Cafe Bustelo comes in instant? Yummy. Nescafe, I discovered online, is considered by instant coffee connoisseurs to be the best instant and I’ve found that the empty jar makes a dandy flower vase.
Celebrating my birthday with black coffee
He's the cream in my coffee
    The other day I was shopping in Winn Dixie and found this deal: Buy one bottle of the brand name Faux Cream, and get one Winn Dixie brand, same size, same flavor, for free. I did it. And yes, it tastes just as good as the brand name stuff. I’m sold. Now I get my daily caffeine via coffee crystals, enlivened with Key West’s own boiled tap water, laced with Faux Cream. I awaken daily with a Pavlovian yen for this tasty elixir.
    Yesterday was my birthday, a special occasion. We went out for breakfast. The day was bright and hot. The crepe was fine. But the coffee, brewed strong and swallowed black, while gazing into the sky-blue eyes of my lover—that was perfection.

Check this out. Copy and paste this address in your browser for the coffee song that put Marlene Dietrich in the movies.



  1. I like Cuban Coffee with Milk and a lot of sugar!

  2. sounds like someone will get a good deal on a "one cup" coffee maker at the next yard sale