Thursday, March 6, 2008


"slightly more efficient than I previously was..." (from Dunkin Donuts coffee ad)

So I sit here drinking my Dunkin Donuts decaf -- good stuff! I don't drink coffee often these days, and when I do it's mostly a cup that's half low fat milk with decaf. I love the smell and taste of coffee, but had to give up the caffeine years ago for several health reasons. The more humorous of which was that I couldn't drive the full 13 miles to work without stopping to pee after my typical 20 oz mug of coffee -- talk about an overactive bladder! More serious were issues of blood pressure, migraines and heart arrhythmia.

Until I was 24 I didn't drink coffee. Got through all four years of college without even a sip. Every time someone offered me a cup, I turned them down saying "no, I hate coffee." It never occurred to me during those years, that it was rather odd to "hate" something one could never remember drinking.

Since I hung out in college with a whole bunch of tea drinkers (Anglophiles and Asian heritage folks) I did not stick out. The breakfast ritual among my friends at the Asia House dining room was reading the sayings from our Salada tea bag tags -- sort of like Chinese fortune cookies.

After six months in graduate school surrounded by coffee drinkers, I decided that I needed to learn to drink coffee for social purposes. The moment of decision came in a Lexington bar at midnight, when the bartender (a friend and fellow grad student) informed me that if I wanted caffeine instead of liquor my only choice was coffee. So I bit the bullet and ordered coffee (with lots of cream and sugar). At the very first sip a long buried memory emerged (rather like Proust)-- and the answer to the puzzle of why I "hated" coffee.

When I was four years old, on a very chilly family camping trip through Oregon and Washington, my parents ran out of hot cocoa. They then made a strategic error. Rather than tell me that there was no more cocoa, and ask if I'd like to try some coffee, they put lots of milk and sugar in the coffee and pretended it was cocoa. So I gulped it down, gagged mightily, threw up, and only then did they tell me it was coffee. Immediate reflexive hatred of coffee.

Once the memory became conscious rather than buried, my hatred of coffee vanished, and I joined the vast ranks of coffee drinkers.