What’s in a Name?

I’m reading a mystery that takes place in a historic coffee shop, which is interesting in itself because I didn’t realize how far back coffee shops went — way back to the 1700s, actually. And maybe even before. I thought they were a more recent idea, though I don’t know why I supposed that — after all, beverage restaurants go back to the beginning of time. (The time of commerce, anyway.) Grog shops, pubs, taverns, wineries, tea houses, so why not coffee shops? I’m sure when chocolate became popular in the 1700s, there were chocolate shops, too, though a cursory look at Google’s offerings didn’t tell me if my surmise was correct.

But I should have known about coffee shops; after all, the term “café society” was coined in the early twentieth century, though the custom of literati, artists, and socialites gathering at coffee shops after attending cultural activities stems from the nineteenth century in the United States. Although coffee shops were prevalent in European culture, they didn’t become the cultural icon they are today in the USA until the later part of the twentieth century.

So, here I am in a fictional coffee shop that has been around for a hundred years, “listening” to the manager of the shop ramble on and on about the different coffee beans, the different ways of brewing, the different tastes and smells (particularly smell since apparently half the appreciation of coffee lies in the scent), as well as the various undertones, overtones, and aftertastes.

Reminds me of wine. People always taste more in wine than I’ve ever been able to even guess. Maybe it’s like music — even a good barbershop quartet grates on my poor ears because I hear only a single discordant sound. Afficionados and others with a musical ear can hear each tone separately, and so they can appreciate the harmony.

I’ve never been able to taste anything in wine but . . . wine. I’m sure it comes as no surprise that my tastes run more to a slightly sweet sparkling wine, though the last time I had any wine (a glass of Seven Daughter’s Moscato) was a couple of years ago when a friend took me out to dinner to celebrate my buying a house. So you can see, I am not a big fan of fermented grapes.

And coffee? It all tastes the same to me, so I find it amusing that I am drinking a cup of instant coffee doctored with honey and lots of cream while I am reading what amounts to a connoisseur’s guide to coffee sandwiched between a couple of murders.

It’s a good thing I never aspired to be member of café society. There’s just no getting away from my plebian tastes when it comes to . . . well, almost everything. Books, movies, art, coffee, wine — plebian all the way. It’s ironic, really, when you consider that my name comes from patrician, which is the exact opposite of plebian.

I guess the answer to Shakespeare’s question, “What’s in a name?” is “Nothing.”

***

What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

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11 Responses to “What’s in a Name?”

  1. rami ungar the writer Says:

    I prefer tea myself. And as for wine, I prefer sweet wines too. Usually kosher moscato, but I also drink Japanese plum wine (which I would like to make myself someday when I can), and honey mead, which I save for special occasions.

  2. Uthayanan Says:

    I think you like tea in your living room table says !
    I took black coffee without sugar every day after lunch with a piece of black chocolate with my wife. And one drop of vitamin D.
    espresso italien and cappuccino always the best.
    But the simple black coffee made my wife without machine I always loved.
    We both liked very much tea plenty including Japanese greens teas.
    And herbs tea everyday.
    Now I can’t drink tea or coffee at home. Except herbs tea. One day you must try at least once the good red wine, champagne, and others in good circumstances.
    In France wine is the perfect companion of gastronomy.
    Other special alcoholics drinks goes better with some special foods.
    Nearly three years I have stopped alcoholics drinks except visites.
    At the moment art of living in case enjoying I have simply lost the reason you certainly knows.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Maybe someday I’ll go to another wine tasting. I’ve gone to a few, but never really knew what I was doing.

      • Uthayanan Says:

        I will agree with you. I went twice with a specialist.
        Except some technical informations I had the same feeling like you. I am not a specialist I have learned by good circumstances with good company with good food. Living in France helps.
        I have a suggestion. Please learn with a connoisseur. Or learn by yourself. Believe in yourself. If you have nobody to suggest.
        Buy yourself a good wine read behind the bottle for the temperature and with which food to accompany with it is very important.
        Otherwise drink as a appetizer (respect the temperature) of the wine before eat. I feel you like cooking. Then naturally you have good tongue for the taste and liking will fallow.
        My doctor says always. Drink wine only for pleasure. Maximum two glasses by meal. (Be careful with the size of your wine glass) And maximize two bottles per week.
        I have stopped completely to drink Wine because with grief I can easily finish one bottle in two three hours and eat more.
        Good wine with modest quantity helps by the the way if you feel headache with my experience is not a good wine bad fabrication and badly preserved.
        All what I have written with my personal experience.
        Good for some probably not for all.

  3. Estragon Says:

    I enjoy both coffee and wine, and in both cases there are some I consider undrinkable. It’s nothing to do with patrician tastes, in fact with some very highly rated reds I’ve tried, I get cough drops with notes of sour diesel or something along those lines. Not worth drinking at any price, let alone the prices they sell for.

    There’s apparently some genetics involved in varying tastes. For example, any more than a little bit of cilantro in a dish will make the whole dish taste like soap to me and to anyone else with whatever genetics make it so. Some foods I’ve learned to like as I’ve aged, but some (like cilantro) are apparently just not my thing.

    It seems to me the point of a coffee shop isn’t to get a perfect cup of coffee anyway. Most coffee snobs I know insist they make a better cup at home anyway. The point, IMHO, is the conversation to be had with another in what’s become the 21st century version of one’s parlour (living room).

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Cilantro tastes like soap to me, too. It’s about enzymes. Some people have the enzymes that break the soapy aldehydes down into the piquant taste so many people like. Others don’t. For us, cilantro is actually poisonous.

      In some cases, foods that used to taste good but no longer do, or those that didn’t use to taste good but now do, are because of the difference in manufacturing processes, or in how the basic element is grown. Kiwi fruits or Granny Smith apples or grown in New Zealand have a vastly different flavor than those grown in the United States. Most fruits and vegetables that used to be grown here but now are grown in Mexico, have a far worse taste, or no taste at all.


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