In my native habitat, I am aware I spend too much money on café Americano mistos out of paper cups. If the first step to “recovery” is awareness then I am aware. I have been, however, extremely unmotivated to change. My husband, a perplexing mixture of generosity and frugality, wishes it were different. But for me, warm drinks, whether it’s “my” coffee in the morning at the village coffee shop, or a cup of tea at home in the afternoon are one of the small pleasures of my life. As far as addictions go, these habits of mine seem pretty benign and I haven’t felt the need to apologize or change. Much to my husband’s disappointment. But then he doesn’t understand since he’s not a coffee drinker.
But I am not in my native habitat. I am in the Netherlands. This week my family and I started a new phase of our three month stay in Europe. Over the next two months we are exchanging our house with three families in different parts of Holland. This is our first home exchange. The house we will call home until the 26th of July is comfortable, tastefully decorated and has super fancy appliances!
The comment about appliances is only relevant because I am realizing how much technology is impacting my travel experience. First it was “how will I cope without the internet?” in Milan (Blog #5). The other day it was “How would I cope without a GPS?… even if she was driving me crazy (ha, ha)” (Blog #6). Now it’s the technology of cooking, and specifically, the technology of cappuccino.
In this nice Dutch couple’s kitchen is a built-in cappuccino machine. Even better, unlike its wall oven neighbor, it speaks English! It tells me it’s warming up, tells me what size and strength of coffee I’m making, and warns me to “mind the steam” when I froth my milk. In short, when I cradle my café au lait cup of cappuccino (it’s a XXL size according to the machine) I am in love. There is a reason to spring out of bed in the morning. One of my first conscious thoughts is about how soon I will allow myself the pleasure of making my coffee. Before or after the shower? Oops. It’s not of my children or my husband. My husband’s caffeine intake is normally limited to – gasp – diet coke, but even he smiles at me appreciatively as I plunk his cappuccino in front of him each morning. I’ve stopped asking him if he’d like a cup of coffee…I just do it. In our few days here I’ve seen him drink more coffee than during the last ten years of our marriage.
Even in Italy. Italians may not be motivated to solve my husband’s technology challenges but they have a worldwide reputation for, among other things, food and drink. They are really, really good at coffee. Now I’ll admit that the temperature rarely dipped below 28 for us while we were there, so one might think of consuming gelato instead of cappuccino (we did that too). I could not find a bad cup of coffee in Milan, Verona, Venice, Genoa, Como or Bellagio. But not a drop of coffee touched my husband’s lips. I on the other hand, took pleasure in finding a nice little table in the shade to sip a cappuccino.
This required some effort on my part since Italians, and my children, don’t sit and drink coffee. Italians seem to drink espresso at the bar, standing, in less than five minutes. How to solve this? If my husband wasn’t going to join me perhaps I could influence his offspring to become my café partners? Clearly I would have to compromise my nutritional standards and allow sugary drinks to pass my children’s lips. But that seemed a bit much at 10am. So…no pop, but I ordered them hot chocolate. I know, there’s no logic in that either. Like I said, sugary drinks passed their lips…in the morning…more than once. They learned to look forward to their little hot chocolates, but they came served with a spoon and had the consistency of pudding. Never mind, it did the trick and I got my 15 minutes at a café table. But my husband missed all this since he was busy pleading with the Vodaphone people about his lack of internet and not sipping cappuccino with us.
So in Italy I learned to enjoy coffee sitting, rather than racing off with it in a paper cup to do errands as I do at home. In Holland and Italy, I have learned the pleasures of drinking it from a ceramic, rather than a paper vessel. And here in our home exchange I have learned to make it myself using technology!
To quote my frugal/generous husband with respect to the, I don’t know…maybe $2500 cappuccino machine…”We NEED one of these! It will pay for itself in six months.” We’re only on day four of our home exchange and it’s already improved my marriage. Not the fortunes of my home town’s local coffee hang out though. I hope they’ll survive the recession I create…