A Good Cup
By Mariyah Gonzales
They say the great affair is to move. That discovery and expansion, both in and out of ourselves, happens in our leaving. With travel we are made soft and more attune to the flickering of new dreams and the sure clicking of souls. So, when life calls you to move, you must dance. I can trace all of my own swaying across four different cities with four cups of coffee, each sweetened with wonder.
My first cup I had was soon after I watched my parents at the table for breakfast in Riyadh. They had just brewed themselves a fresh pot and warmed a few rolls in the oven. My mum tore one in half, slid in a smear of butter, folded it shut and then dipped the roll into her coffee. I was completely taken by the ritual. After I had a bite, I was ruined. We were breaking the rules and it felt good and tasted better. The two cups brewed turned into three and mine would be the one still half-full at the end of breakfast.
It wasn’t until I had spent some time in Jaca a few years ago that I started drinking coffee. There, I had it every morning at the table and often in bars in the afternoons with savoury croquettes. But these cups were something else. They were dark and heavy and sexy. The flavours were bold and bright, almost like the coffee looked you straight in the eyes after leaning in close to your face. I felt different drinking it. I hadn’t realized that one of the things the Philippines chose to keep from the Spaniards were their coffee dipping practices. A Spanish friend of mine mentioned it after he watched me one morning and I smiled, keeping his eyes.
After my recent stay in Manila, I found other food traditions I wanted to keep. My Tito would rise and disappear while the rest of us slept until breakfast. He’d come back with two crumpled-shut paper bags of the doughiest Pan de Sal made only minutes before. These fresh buns and a clean cup of coffee served on its saucer were the only things I wanted to wake up to. What struck me was that he did this every morning and had been for years. He drew from the idea that our food should be delicious and fresh, that it should bring pleasure to everyone around the table.
Now home in Toronto, I try and cultivate those same ideals by grinding and using only the coffee beans I need for the day. Either the French press or the stovetop Bialetti make me wait but I never mind. The time it takes to boil or steep is almost always enough time for my mind to settle into the new day. The slowness and the intention required to make something so early in the morning is a great teacher.
Travel teaches too and every time you look back, you see how you’ve opened or kept yourself shut. Your meeting with different perspectives help filter through your own and you’re left with something a little more finished. But the best thing about leaving is that it calls attention to the all of the things that are the same. Travel underlines the things you’ll find in every city if you stay long enough like a great friend and a good cup of coffee.
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