Juris Mater's Roman adventure has me thinking nostalgically of the time I spent living in Roma, working as an intern at the US Embassy to the Vatican. I thought I'd post one of the vignettes I sent out during my time there. This is the one about coffee. Which reminds me, and maybe I am the last person in the world to figure this out, but I have started pouring my coffee into a travel mug in the mornings, even when we don't leave the house. It stays warm for hours. Brilliant!! How did it take me 5 years to realize this??
Rome Vignette II: Coffee
By the time I arrive at work--anywhere from a 15-50 minute ordeal given the reliability of Italian transportation and the frequency of strikes--I am approximately 1 hour removed from my first coffee of the day in the comfort of my apartment. Despite being on US soil within the Embassy compound, the Italians who work here refuse to succumb to a Folgers-Starbucks kind of world. Ask for a cafe americano and you get a look
ranging from disgust to pity.
The feat of arriving to the Embassy at 8:30 warrants a cafe, or so I am told by Massimo, who coordinates the Embassy's financial matters and the coffee (equally significant jobs). One of my first official e-mails I received on my state department account was RE: COFFEE BEANS. We were all asked to contribute 10 euros so that the Embassy could buy good coffee beans. Of the 15 people who work at Embassy Vatican, 2/3 claim to make the best coffee, and, within the course of a day, it seems I have enough opportunities to try them all.
10am. Clearly time for a coffee break. Massimo always has dibs on making the coffee for this coveted time slot. Contrary to the United States, making coffee is not a dreaded task delegated to the lowest man on the totem pole, but an opportunity for glamour and prestige. After the 10am break, most can usually hang on until lunch for the next hit of caffeine. Throughout the afternoon, there are many other opportunities to imbibe in the other Italian elixir of life. I have been offered coffee by drivers, security guards, a protocol officer, a janitor, and a political genius. Apparently it is a very egalitarian drink.
The coffee is usually made on the stove, but I happened to be here for the day when the electric coffee maker came. It is nothing like an American one, lest you worry...it is Italian and makes Italian coffee. However, not one of the self-proclaimed experts was about to be shown up by the sleek, silver machine. The New Zealander in the office who was reading the instructions declared the machine to be "self-cleaning."
That was the nail in the coffin. "The coffee pot must be seasoned!!" One would have thought we had just ended diplomatic relations with the Holy See given the fervency of the cries. Apparently a clean coffee pot is a bad thing. But, at the end of the day, I have had many cups of good, strong coffee that Small World couldn't hold a candle to.