Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Roman Coffee

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 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

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.


JLP said...

Wow, when were you at the Vatican embassy? I was at the consulate in Naples the summer after sophomore year (2001) and I got to meet the interns at Rome and Florence, but it never occurred to any of us that there were interns at the Vatican! What an incredible place to work!

Anonymous said...

Whoa, sweet gig! How long did you intern there?

Kat said...

I love it, TM! This seems like forever ago, but it was just 7 years!

Kat said...

Oh, and I do the travel mug sometimes because then if I go out, my coffee is ready to come with me :) Sometimes, the only thing that keeps me plowing through a tough morning is that cup of coffee!

Juris Mater said...

Tex, we have been using instant coffee because I cannot figure out how Italians do their coffee on a regular basis without a machine(could you email me some instructions?). And you have solved a great mystery by pointing out that the item pictured is a travel coffee mug. We immediately turned it into our bathroom toothbrush holder because I thought it was one of the IHOP syrup dispensers.

texas mommy said...

Oh, dear JM, I hope you are joking since you are the witty, sarcastic type! Just in case not, the item pictured is a coffee maker, not a travel mug-Italian style. And I will email you some directions on how to use it..STAT!

Juris Mater said...

Thanks for saving the day, Tex. No, I'm serious about the toothbrush holder.