When I first moved to Kokomo in 1983, I was surprised at how many people did not drink coffee. Many people, for example, drank Coke for breakfast – something I had never seen before. In contrast, I was raised in an environment where coffee drinking was assumed. At work, people did not take “breaks.” They took “coffee breaks.”
Over the years, health aficionados ranted and raved about the evils of coffee drinking. It caused cancer, they claimed, and a host of other woes. That never made sense. What beverage is more natural than coffee?
Eventually designer coffees and creamers struck like a tsunami. Coffee was now the rage – but only if it cost $3 or $4 a cup and could be made more fattening. Iced coffees, espresso, lattes, and a host of coffee beverages mushroomed in popularity. The word “barista” came into the American vocabulary.
Many of these new drinks are actually imported from Italy. To me, “Italian” usually means “good;” having grown up in an Italian neighborhood, I have long believed that Italian cuisine stands head and shoulders above the rest. But when it comes to coffee ...
Where I was raised, my friends (all of Italian descent) would say, “There are only two kinds of people: Italians and those who wish they were.” Such sayings are arrogant at best; there are many opinions on this matter. I fall into a unique category: Those who are not Italian but are fortunate enough to marry one.
My perspective on coffee is not so Italian. Italians have the best main entrees in the world – a given. They have the best bread – a no-brainer. And condiments – who can match hot giardiniera? But coffee and desserts – eh (as I raise my hand and slide it to the side).
I guzzle plain coffee and creamer. True, I enjoy coffee raised on mountains in Kenya or Kona coffee from Hawaii – but not enough to pay for it. I consume Folgers and sometimes splurge with Eight O’Clock.
I also view coffee as a mild, useful drug. Many people are like me: natural night owls.
My dad worked the third shift from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. for nearly 35 years, and I have his genes. Since society revolves around the first shift, that means people like me have to drug themselves with coffee to function in this crazy daylight world.
Those of us who are sinus people know that coffee is a gentle decongestant; in addition, the warm steam helps thin down phlegm. While the health-food crew was bemoaning the evils of coffee, the rest of us felt better because of it.
About 25 years ago, I gave up coffee for a year; the health books I read suggested coffee was bad for my sinus problems. I drank herbal teas with roast grains, roots and barks that mimicked coffee. After one year, I decided I felt much better with coffee and got off the bandwagon. It was then I concluded that despite all the naysayers, coffee was good medicine. Now, it seems, the experts are catching on.
A February 2012 Reader’s Digest article titled, “Energize Your Life,” summarizes comments made by Harvard medical professor Sanjiv Chopra about the beneficial consequences of coffee drinking. Three cups of coffee a day reduces your chance of skin cancer by 20 percent; men, six cups a day reduces the risk of dying from prostate cancer by an amazing 60 percent; women, at least one cup a day lowers the risk of stroke by 25 percent. Even one cup a day reduces a woman’s chance of being depressed by 20 percent.
The medical world is finally catching up to what the man on the street has recognized for centuries: Life is better with coffee!
I could not conclude this column without including one worst-known-to-mankind coffee joke. Here goes.
A newly married Christian couple was sorting out household responsibilities. The man suggested that the wife make the coffee every morning. The wife resisted the suggestion, claiming the Bible taught
“Where in the Bible does it say the man should make the coffee?” he marveled.
“Right here,” she replied, placing her finger on the title of a New Testament book. “It says, ‘Hebrews.’”
• Ed Vasicek is pastor of Highland Park Church and a weekly contributor to the Kokomo Tribune. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.