French coffee is good, but Italian coffee rules. I discovered this universal truth, worthy of all men to be believed, in Italy of course, where food is significantly better than anywhere I have eaten anything. I forgave the French their agricultural policy after my first meal in Paris, but I felt that my waiter was talking down to me as a poor soul from an inferior gastronomic culture. That may well be true, but by contrast, the Italians I met invited me to share in the joy of eating and drinking well. I had never encountered so much honest food and drink, offered and consumed with such a hearty appreciation of the good things in life.
I can get over Italian politics. It’s their business. They’ve been doing it that way for centuries. It works for them and though it’s easy to criticize, the fact remains that Italy is now and always has been important. If somehow Finland and all its people were removed from history, it would be tough on the Finns, but world history wouldn’t even hiccough. Remove Italy from history and EVERYTHING would be radically different in ways beyond the imagination of all the writers of fantasy and science fiction rolled together and on steroids. Without Italy, we would lose most of what we know as music, art, architecture, organized religion. We would also never know Tuscan ham, Parmigiano Reggiano, extra-virgin olive oil, gelato and Montepulciano d’Abruzzo.
Let’s concentrate on coffee. I don’t want to think of a world without a latte to wake me up and an espresso to complete my dinner. This is why at home I do my best to make really good coffee. I purchased a stove-top steel espresso-maker utensil while I was in Italy, and have used it ever since. It doesn’t actually produce Italian coffee, but mine is an acceptable substitute for the miraculous, soul-enhancing stuff that comes out of one of those machines with the handles, the steam, and so many tubes and spigots that you expect it to emit a Puccini overture as it dispenses your cappuccino.
And now let me call down a righteous curse on the inventors, vendors, promoters and marketers of those fiendish little non-recyclable coffee pods and their expensive, cranky and thoroughly decadent coffee-making machines. Of all the many unnecessary gadgets that replace the joy of making and eating good food and drink by offering us instant sub-par gratification, these are the worst. They are devised exclusively for milking the greatest possible profit from the sale of the machine and its villainous little pods. One company even has the unmitigated gall to say that they’re working on recyclable pods, but they won’t be producing them for another three years.
In the brief time before the shiny machines get clogged and corroded by standard municipal water they do produce an unreasonable coffee substitute for people who can’t be bothered to make their own. However, they are ten times more expensive than the reliable little device that sits on my stove. Operating them costs far more per cup than top-of-the-line, organically grown, fair traded, locally roasted coffee that you brew yourself and then compost the grounds for your garden. If you just chuck the used-up coffee into a landfill, it soon becomes one with the organic life of the planet. But if you throw those little plastic-and-foil pods into your garbage, the damnable little packets will still be around long after you and I and our grandchildren are pushing up daisies. Only spent uranium rods and plastic-wrapped bread last longer.
I hate to admit it, but some of these satanic little coffee machines are made in Italy. Would that Don Corleone was around to put out a contract on these wretched folk who devised and marketed them. Or perhaps force them to drink Tim Hortons coffee until their Gucci shoes rot off their feet.