Does anybody else ever find themselves never, ever ordering an Americano? Something purportedly concocted for the American WWII soldiers in Italy to approximate their beloved brewed coffee back home. It’s always been a concession from the get go. Neither fish, nor fowl.
Now I’m all for nostalgia and, of course, nothing quite tastes like what you remember from back home, but why not just wait till you get back home? Obviously that might have been less than certain for a GI in Europe at that time and of course any comfort of home would have been warranted. However, is it just my Canadian-ness to see looking at the local culture while abroad and then suggesting something “better” as odd? Embrace the strange while travelling!
I do wonder if they still have “Americanos” on the menu in Italy? Perhaps off menu but reluctantly available?
Imagine you’re in Venice, St Mark’s Square to be specific, and standing there slack jawed drinking in the grandeur of the Basilica. (Which is frickin’ gorgeous, by the way. You think the tile work in your kitchen is nice? You haven’t seen anything.) So after an intense afternoon of culture you need a little refresh, a little something to whet the lips. Are you seriously going to darken the doorway of Café Florian and place your order for an Americano?
I can just see the Barista wince with a twinge from the heartburn such an order must induce. Watching his carefully crafted espresso, a national treasure, bleed out as he pours hot water on it to fill the cup.
And then what? Do you stand at the bar and nurse one of these? Do you ask the Barista for a small pitcher of cream? I envision it taking at least three people to actually find the cream and a small pitcher to place it in. Surely accompanied by much muttering under the breath.
No, no, no!
When in Rome…you know what to do!
When in Vancouver, I suggest you do the same and tap into something so right, to mess with it only invites ruin or, at the very least, some sort of fad-like season that is best forgotten soon after it has begun. Neon Sun Ice powder suit from the ‘80s anyone?
What were we thinking?!
And again, one has to ask the question, when you see the Americano. Is it as good as a well-brewed cup of drip coffee? No contest, not even close.
Does it capture even a fraction of the Orion Nebula like brilliance of espresso? Puhleese.
Perhaps what is missing is a critical mass of espresso drinkers in these parts rather than the onesie, twosies that most cafes have.
Imagine a bar crawling like an ant farm with people all drinking from demitasse cups. A kaleidoscope of humanity changing by the minute.
Imagine an espresso machine run like it was meant to – continuously, optimally. Every group pumping out coffee.
Imagine a counter lined up with an honour guard of saucers and spoons, ready and waiting. Baristas serving four orders at a time, cups clasped between knuckles and deftly placed with a clatter. No ceremony, all purpose.
The whole place is boisterous with voice and infectious with the energy of life.
Is this the feverish dream of a coffee professional? Oh no, this is every busy café in Italy. Train station, gas station, neighbourhood café…
Espresso. It’s not about the coffee per se. It’s about life. But perhaps that is too saccharine, grand and trite all at once, so let’s just say it’s about something good. Order an espresso today. Find a place to stand while you drink it. Stand a little closer than you might normally to the people next to you and, of course, enjoy.