Friday, September 5, 2008

The Beginning

Guess What!? I live in Portland. No, not THAT Portland, the cool Portland - Portland, Oregon. This is my first post on my first blog. The topic of the day? Something about Portland no doubt!

I could start with the heavy topics on everyone's mind right now (politics!), but let's start out slow and warm up to that later, shall we? How about something that Portlanders are proud of - our coffee!

I actually hate coffee. My husband, a self-proclaimed coffee-addict (he packs the campfire espresso maker on back-country hiking trips), tries to get me hooked every chance he can, but I like to think that I have prevailed. I don't have those throbbing headaches he gets if he goes a day without the customary 3 cups. I don't get grumpy and bite people's heads off if I haven't found a coffee shop in any of the small towns we pass through while vacationing in Central Oregon, Alaska or Sweden. However, I am frequently guilty of spending $4 for a cup full of hot milk and sugar, flavored with espresso. And worse yet (according to some of my friends), I usually buy it at Starbucks.

This leads us to two questions: How can a person hate coffee but enjoy espresso? And how can a person live in liberal SE Portland and patronize Starbucks, the evil corporate coffee-shop-takeover king?

To answer the first question, I guess I just love milk and sugar and will stop at nothing to get some (I love cereal too!). I especially like that a whole-milk latte - or better yet, a caramel, whole-milk latte, or better still, a whole-milk caramel mocha - is an accepted accompaniment to any activity at any time of day. It's versatile! It fills you up, boosts your morale (yes, I still get that "happy" feeling when I imbibe caffeine), and best yet, it doesn't have to "count" as a meal! But it can be a simple, any-day solution to the "what to get for lunch" dilemma and an apparently reasonably-priced fallback when everything else seems too "fast food" or too expensive.

Your office-mates don't look at you funny when you drag a 4,000 calorie, syrup-laden coffee drink around with you everywhere you go, not like they do when you eat a bowlful of Peanut Butter Cap't Crunch during the company safety meeting. (Maybe it's the spoon that makes them stare...) I guess I could try hiding my Capt' Crunch in a coffee cup.

As for the Starbucks question, well, somehow I manage to live with myself. I was appalled when I heard that Starbucks had bought the lease out from under a number of local coffee shops, without actually buying out the businesses themselves. I was dismayed that both Torrefazione and Seattle's Best Coffee succumbed to the irresistible (I imagine it was literally so) offer by Starbucks Corporate to dissolve their enterprises so that Starbucks wouldn't have any competitors nearby.

Some people hate Starbucks for their aggressive capitalistic ways. I guess I am a wimp. Because I like consistency and availability. Although I frequent a few local coffee shops that produce a better or comparable coffee drink, I am loathe to try anybody new for fear of disappointment.

Did I mention that I am very picky? I have turned my nose up at more coffee drinks than people twice my age and income level (luckily, my husband doesn't mind slurping up my discards). So, despite Starbucks' glaring example of "Might equals right" (I despairingly call it "The American Way"), I appreciate the product. The same Caramel Macciato can be found in almost every airport and main street of every moderate-sized town I visit.

There is nothing worse than looking forward to a tasty, hand-warming cup of sweet comfort, and finding that it falls far short of my hopes and expectations. Except maybe neglecting my duty to put my money where my mouth is.

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