I am not exactly a connoisseur of coffee.
I’ve spent most of my life smugly disliking the stuff. I felt superior and health-conscious. Every warning I saw about negative effects—cardiovascular damage, weakened teeth, pre-caffeine morning stupor—inspired a self-satisfied “Not me!” I even told a congratulatory little story about my superhuman resistance:
I got all these benefits without any sacrifice—if you sincerely dislike something, you do not get Martyr Points for giving it up. This logic did not stop me from regaling others with the tale of my impressive willpower at every opportunity, though.
The trouble was that I kept tempting fate. I still liked how coffee smelled, so I would try it every now and then to see if my tastebuds had changed. It’s the same way I occasionally sample brie and V8 in case they’re no longer disgusting and I’m missing out. With every test, though, I continued to file that cup o’ joe under “gross.”
So what major life event—what monumental stressor—finally got me to drink coffee?
I realized that fat is delicious.
I bought a carton of heavy cream for the fridge at work, and it took a single cup to corrupt my once-touted purity.
(Plus I got a nifty mug like this one, and I really had to start drinking something that leaves stains so that no one else would try to borrow it.)
Despite this shameful fall from grace, I held onto a last shred of superiority: Up until recently, I was not aware of any personal standards for coffee quality. All the fuss about finding the good stuff or being the world’s best sounded affected and needy—unlike the fine gradations I recognize in ice cream workmanship, coffee pretty much seems to be coffee.
Last month, however, I faced a 12-hour, overnight drive across six hundred very flat miles. This trip led me to sample a great deal of the coffee available in the wee hours of a West Texas morning, and my palate mustered up some previously unrecognized discernment.
At my gym, the tanning booths are in between the front door and the women’s locker room. When I walk past them, the surrounding area is usually scented like tropical fruit or lavender. Occasionally, though, it smells disconcertingly like dinner.
That’s what it tastes like when you pull into a small-town McDonald’s at 4 a.m. and they pour you a cup from the pot left untouched by last night’s shift. The greasy savor of roasting skin.
I don’t have a good way to end this post. It’s hard to rebound from flesh coffee. Instead, you should listen to this song, which I heard on vacation and which is now my very favorite snake-related song of all time: