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Sunday, August 16, 2009

Nectar of the Gods

Having survived high school, four years of an undergraduate education, and three years in graduate school, I have learned many things, most of which I fail to recall when needed. One thing that never escapes me though is the power of a delicious, hot, and strong cup of coffee. For some, tea is an easy replacement for coffee, for it shares many of the same properties of heat, liquidity, and comfort. Nevertheless, I happen to relish the flavor of dark roasted coffee beans that have become acquainted with the hottest of water.

Coffee and I go way back. Early mornings before jazz band in high school. Endless hours in Penrose Library finishing papers. A common denominator among peers in graduate school. For me, enjoying coffee is inherited, no doubt the unsurprising influence of my father, whose 12-cup Thermos accompanied him to work at 6 am every day. The flavor is unmatched, distinct, and bold, adjectives I wish could be applied to my own personality. Coffee also brings people together, in houses dedicated to the beverage, at kitchen tables in the morning (as I write this, Molly and I are sharing coffee at the dining room table), and in airport lounges and business meetings worldwide. What would the world look like without coffee? I dare not think about it.

People also use coffee to make a statement. Fair trade. Organic. Locally roasted. National chain. All those apply to the coffee itself - where did it come from and where did it go? However, I'm fascinated with the statement people make in how they drink it. We've all seen those destroyed thermos mugs hanging from a carabiner and covered in politically conscious labels. Or the silent social wars over the disposable mug, its origin, and the percentage of recycled material used to make it. I happen to enjoy a good, solid coffee cup, though I love my Thermos portable mug too.

Sweet Nectar

Molly calls this my "44 ounce cup," large enough to hold an entire pot of coffee, she argues. I reply that it depends on the size of the pot. It's true that it is the Big Gulp of coffee. My old French Press simply would not have made enough coffee to fill this mug. But the mug also has character, a unique individuality in its shadings, coloring, and seeming imperfections. There's nothing commercial or mass produced about this mug. In fact, it was hand created by a local Chico resident, Bill Flake. Bill is originally from the Yakima Valley, where he graduated from Central Washington University in English and Philosophy. He studied ceramics at the University of Western Florida. And I'm thankful he did. The mug is now a cherished possession of mine, and just a small part of his overall output.

Bill makes ceramic plates, bowls, serving dishes, and vases in a plethora of colors and patterns, each of which is made of high-fire stoneware with both functionality and style in mind. I picked my mug up at Chico's Zucchini and Vine. Though I have conflicting interests given that Molly's mom owns the store, I am certainly glad that they are dedicated to featuring local artisans so that I could stumble upon Bill Flake's ceramic mug, a vessel in which to enjoy my favorite hot beverage.

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