Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Strange Brew

Ahh, coffee. That delectable brew. The morning eye opener. The afternoon pick me up. The evening relaxer. Coffee, ahhh. I am not a coffee snob. I delight in all of it's varied forms. With exception of burnt or poorly made coffee, I love it all. Serve it to me steamed, pressed, perked or brewed. Chicory? Yum. Espresso? Cappuccino? Americano? Yummo. There is one brew, though that I can not wrap my head around. Ooo it gives me a shudder to even say the words... "Iced Coffee". Eeewww.

As a small fry I adored going to visit the elderly relations in North Carolina. My favourite Aunt Nettie lived in a big columned mansion with a screened sleeping porch, working servants bells and real flying squirrels in her front yard. She was very delicate, beautiful and absent minded and I adored her. Imagine a red-headed Blanche DuBois before she lost her mind, wearing one earring because she'd misplaced the other and you have Aunt Nettie.

One particular afternoon my mother and obnoxious older sisters intruded after I'd enjoyed a divine sleep over at Aunt Nettie's. She had invited them to come for a "Ladies Lunch". I was terribly excited because darling Aunt Nettie had something fantastic and mysterious in her Frigidaire. It was shiny and shimmery and the most exquisite shade of translucent India Ink red. There it was settled like giant garnets on individual plates of bib lettuce with an artful dab of mayonnaise carefully set to the side. Hidden inside each of these jewels like an ancient scarab was an incredibly slim sliver of yellow pepper. Aspic! Even the name conjured up visions of the exotic East. This was to be followed by real boiled tongue and pickled chow chow with a light as air syllabub for dessert. And to drink? You guessed it. Iced Coffee.

I was beside myself with anticipation. If I were to describe the beauty of Aunt Nettie's table set with snowy Irish damask and dainty luncheon sized china and sterling, you would think I were exaggerating. In truth, it was the most lovely table I have ever seen. Lest you think that Aunt Nettie had forgotten to take into consideration the fact that three of her guests were children, I will tell you that she made a very important and as it turned out, fatal accomodation.

The iced coffee was instant Sanka. That's right. When my sisters let out strangled choking sounds upon seeing their lunch and grabbed for their glasses, they discovered those glasses were filled with ice cubes, lactose free skim milk, sugar and chunks of undissolved instant decaffeinated freeze dried coffee.

I was never going to let anyone know what I thought of the dishes put before me. In the interest of protecting Aunt Nettie's delicate feelings, I summoned all my seven year old courage and ate precisely one half of everything presented to me and washed it down with Iced Coffee.

I am pleased to report that at the end of the meal we were able to whisk away my sisters' plates and have them washed before the old dear noticed they'd gone untouched. And my sisters? They did not get McDonald's afterwards because they kept pressing the servants bell under the table with their feet, making Aunt Nettie jump out of her skin every time it went off.

To this day, I still can not look at an iced coffee without thinking of that excruciating meal and shuddering. But you know what? I still think aspic is beautiful and every time I taste it's beefy tomatoey goodness I think of lovely Aunt Nettie.