Prison “coffee”

It’s a wonderful thing when a married couple can agree on anything; a sublime event, as when a product actually measures up to its advertising. It is the mark of a successful marriage when two can appreciate the donut and overlook the hole.

I have advised countless young men (3 or 4, at least) to be kind to themselves, and keep the bar of marital expectations very low. (I have warned that it is hard, but not impossible, to lower it once it has foolishly been allowed to ascend to a painful height. But that endeavor is costly and generally frustratingly beyond the comfort range of normal brain activity.)

Based on the ‘frog in boiling water’ principle, over the course of many years, by very small but well-thought-out Pavlovian events, I had managed to train my wife to take great satisfaction, if not pleasure, in finding the simplist of my assigned chores completed, when done before they were noticed to be undone. I had succeeded in lowering the bar to the point where there were no greater expectations than to regularly find the grass had been cut.

After reaching the ‘heaven on earth’ that happens once the equilibrium height of expectations has been reached, it becomes much easier to find ways to become a “trophy husband”, a truly rewarding goal to shoot for (but only if achieved without disturbing the equilibrium).

Around 10 yrs ago, my sweetheart and I discovered we both preferred Hazelnut coffee to all others (33 years after preferring each other to all others!). Not talking about the Starbucks version of syrup thrown in with the base compound, but a nice roast with more of a hazelnut aroma than taste. It is available at the incredibly wonderful gourmet mart one minute from our home. Slightly pricey but a ‘tenth bag free’ punchcard fools you into thinking its affordable.

And so we happily found satisfaction in one less thing to be completely different about. No small thing!

Then, a little over 4 years ago, the “adventure” hit the fan.

One of the surprising beneficial results of that was my immediately-discerned, dire need to rise earlier each day, to throw myself at the foot of the cross for strength and wisdom to face each day. How exactly that evolved is a story for another day. This story is about coffee.

And so my lovely bride began to happily discover the aroma of hazelnut coffee each day upon rising, and her cup waiting for her beside the coffee pot. (It would be nice to say it put a smile on her face, but smiles were few and far between in that first year of this insanity. She would probably agree that the waiting coffee somewhat warmed her heart.)

Which brings me to prison coffee.

First, were it not for the commissary, there would be none. On the weekly chow hall menu, for Sat/Sun, coffee is listed. I’m not sure why. I work in Food Service and I’ve not seen any, even in the kitchen, let alone the chow hall line. [Just checked with one of the cooks (2 cells down from me in my unit). He says they stopped making it because no one would drink it, it was so bad. I asked what was wrong with it and he said he thought it had “shurroot” (“cheroot”?) in it. I thought for a moment, and asked, “Do you think that might be another name for ‘chicory’? He said it might. I told him I like coffee & chicory, having lived in New Orleans. He said he’d look around and see if they still have some, which he’d give to me.]

The commissary sells two brands of instant coffee- Keefe and Tasters’ Choice. My first night here, someone gave me an almost full bag of Keefe, and someone else an extra plastic mug. It was- well, coffee, but the taste made me eager to try some Tasters’ Choice. When I got a bag of it, I found the first cup to be much better than Keefe. Every cup thereafter has been only ever-so-slightly better than Keefe.

This frustration of not having a decent cup of coffee launched me into the series of experiments which I’m still in. It must be noted that it had been many years since I’ve taken my coffee any way other than black. I only reluctantly entered Stage One, using Nestle’ Coffee-Mate “creamer”. Result: Infinitesimally better than black, very slightly less sour.

Stage Two: The Holiday season brought us a dozen Xmas items (in honor of our Lord & Savior)- among which; Peanut Brittle Bites, Caramel Swirl Pretzels, Smoked Oysters Hot, Baby Clams, Cordials Cherries, and French Vanilla Cappuccino. I had great hopes for the Cappuccino as an additive. I should have tried the Peanut Brittle Bites. Or the Baby Clams.

Stage Three: I have obtained a little brown sugar and cinnamon. I am experiencing positive results. Working on the optimal proportions. Ready to take to Kickstarter for funding. (Alas, no internet access)

Footnote: While writing this, I was interrupted by a buddy. There has been a lot of coming and going in this unit. One departee left behind a porcelain coffee cup. My buddy found it and offered it to me. (Falling to my knees, I accepted it saying, “Glory to God in the highest!) Might this be the ‘magic bullet’? Can’t wait til tomorrow!

Postscript to Footnote: Upon receiving the cup, I found that I now owe my “buddy” any Jalapeno Potato Chips that come into my possession.