Sunday, August 06, 2006

Granita di Caffe con Panna in a Motor Sidecar

The road to my heart is paved with dark aromatic coffee beans, specifically Peet’s Major Dickason’s blend. This week, I wander the contours of the deeply grooved seed tracing the scent of Colombia, Ethiopia and Sulawesi. Such a simple form belies the length of patience and endurance required to grow and harvest rich tasting Coffea Arabica, not to mention the literal miles traveled from tree to mug. Whether one imbibes or not, few can resist coffee’s alluring earthy toasted nose that hints of far away places and mysteries untold. Sniffing was my preferred method of consumption until recently when I unexpectedly received a stuffed black shiny bag in the mail from a friend. Suddenly I had the resources to brew gallons of highly charged drink at my fingertips- a slightly dizzying thought for a non-regular coffee consumer. I plunged in ready to embrace a beverage that I nonetheless enjoy. My first cup I drank with little fanfare. Being somewhat clumsy and unskilled, we (H & I) ended up with a liquid that was both thin and tepid. The warm pleasing taste was still enough for me to hearken back to a time when I drank cappuccino in an Italian bar as a student. It was an almost daily morning ritual that survived for as long as I was abroad. When in Rome one must do as the Romans do. Back in NY however, we sink or swim and the temporary habit quickly receded into the background to become a sophisticated memory usurped by cans of supercharged Mountain Dew and scores of Kit Kat. It is exactly because I overused sugar and caffeine so non-judiciously to prop up and enliven my sorry-of-a-corpse self, that I generally swore off the stuff as soon as I graduated to sleep and sensible self care. Now here I am alone with my pile of beans and the spirit of Juan Valdez, thousands of miles away from school. So I reach for a cup and then another and another…

I feel a bit guilty as I have times before when hungering after something I think unwise to consume. It has been my curse to learn just enough to clutter my mind with “what is good”. Many an internal argument has broken out over the vices and virtues of eating something truly decadent I crave. Therefore I have attempted to silence all opinionated body parts by eating what I want in moderation and throwing in some extra kale, just in case. I think about my acupuncturist who years ago used the term “instinct injured” to describe most of us in relationship to our own terra firma. Hunger and cravings can appear misleading in signaling an authentic need. We feel betrayed when our “needs” point us towards that box of shiny oil slicked donuts while health officials are warning us away from saturated fats. Do most of us follow our desires down to its root to discover the true origin? Tired of distrusting the self, I decided to go along with my recent coffee guzzling ways to see where my body would lead.

It will be no surprise when I report that I have felt enlivened by the caffeine. However unlike when people drink caffeine to oppose their physical fatigue, I have found that it seems to match the internal energetic place that I feel. It is a description that is in the process of becoming. And like a desiccated piece of sea matter, I feel great surging excitement in being quenched by this aqua vita. I have come to experience coffee drinking as a very kinetic ride. I can feel my blood vessels constricting, my heart pounding, my tissue buzzing. I get a subtle hum of movement that has a similar exhilaration that one gets from running breathlessly towards the ocean spray. I am alive and caught on fire with memories of movement fast and furious. I am a child pedaling my orange ten speed bike home before night fall comes to swallow me up. I am bombing down a snow packed mountain, knees and hips moving in tandem, shock absorbers for the impact of each perfectly carved mogul. I am one with my cello, giant reverberating heart, swaying and sculpting sound as it floats out and up through the air. I traipse delicately upon the uneven matt floor of a cathedral like redwood forest hand in hand with silence. All this and every variation and turn of movement fast and slow, syncopated and disjointed, attached to purpose or pleasure- somehow compiled and distilled into one very potent liquid dream. That has been the allure of coffee for me. And I can hardly wait to fly down the road of forever next.

Granita di Caffe con Panna is the perfect way to get your adrenaline up on a hot day such as the record breaking one's we have been experiencing all over the country and have your dessert too. Quite simply brew some good quality strong (as in muscle flexing strong) coffee. I would figure about 2 cups more or less per person, it is nice to have extra. Dissolve a bit of sugar (approx.1 Tblsp per cup) into the brew but keep in mind that when frozen, one will not perceive sweet to be quite as sweet as unfrozen. When cooled pour granita mixture into a shallow pyrex pan or in ice cube trays and place in freezer. If using a pan, one is committed to agitating the newly formed ice crystals every 40 minutes or so. Do so until what remains is a pretty pile of ice shavings. If using ice cube trays, just prior to serving pop ice into a blender or food processor and whirl away until there is a mass of smallish ice particles. Scoop into parfait glasses and garnish with sweetened whipped cream. Some like to add more oomph to the buzz by adding libations such as a splash of Kahlua, Amaretto or cognac. Enjoy this creamy bittersweet adult slushy.


jbird said...

Remember the "I Love Coffee" buttons they handed out at the Green Dragon? :-)
Another lovely post. I wish you can post everyday! Despite the acupuncturist's warning "No icy drinks" guess who have been guzzling down 2 iced decaf coffees a day...well, the 100 F plus temp made it a medical necessity.
You are making me want to start up that caffeine habit again....:-)
I always felt like a superhero once I had caffeine/coffee in me.
And now, w/o the caffeine, I am a walking zombie....the world is alittle like a colorized version of a b/w movie...which can be ok bec. the shock of color might just blind me permanently. Have fun, my caffeinated friend.
with dulled sensibilities.

Callipygia said...

I don't remember the buttons- see it is continuing to scare me how differently we recall those years. A parallel universe. Did we ever go to the great Italian restaurant South of Market (close to the MOMA) for carpaccio and Granita di Caffe? So good, brings back Roma

Anonymous said...

Coffee...mmm...nothing like a nice iced coffee with a bit of crunchy sugar and tiny bit of about Ben and Jerry's Coffee Heath Bar Crunch ice cream? Heaven.

miragee said...

I love your description of how coffee works on you. I feel happy when drinking coffee because I know my body reacts negatively to it. I drink it when I am in good shape and it feels like eating the forbidden apple:-).

Your theory "When in Rome, do as Romans do" is so true. When I traveled to Italy this summer, I drank coffee every few days even though I do not do it here. I also drank A LOT OF COCA COLA. Fortunately, I quit the habit right after I came home. Funny isn't it?

I should try to introduce more interesting restaurants on my blog so that you can discuss with me:-).

jbird said...

oohhhh....yes, they were white buttons with black font that said "I (heart) coffee".....I think Neil had a bunch and gave one to me. I wore it proudly....
:-) of course now, i cant stay up past 9:30, so who loves decaf coffee now? and yes, we did so go to Pazzia's, YUMMO and it was awesome. I think they can write your name on the cappuccino.
However, do you remember Franco and Maria and the "con panna" and the # of dollops were inversely proportional to how badly you did on your italian exam? Sigh.

little bear said...

I also loved your description of caffeine's effect on your body. I'm enjoying my 2nd cup of Cole's (nee Royal's) cup of Organic Sumatra while I peruse your posts.


gattina said...

To discover the true origin of my desire? Hardly can. My hunger and craving most of the time combine. But seeing your luscious granita di caffe, just go grab one first!