The Coffee Culture

A bitter sweet liquid that gets you up in the morning…coffee is by all means a global sensation. Discovered by the ‘Galla’ tribe in the depths of Ethiopia over a thousand years ago coffee is now grown in more than 50 countries world-wide. As I sit in Starbucks, sipping my Mocha I truly cannot imagine life without coffee, and it’s not just me that feels this way – coffee is an essential part of everyday life for the majority of the populace.

During a time of economic strife, during the worst recession in decades, during soaring unemployment levels – at least we have more time to enjoy coffee. In fact, as I sit here and write, I can spot one, two, no three people circling advertisements in the job section. I can think of no better way and would go as far to say that there is no better way, than to look for a job whilst holding a large frothy cappuccino. An acquaintance once said to me that it was ‘money, money, money that made the world go round,’ now I realise that money was just a formality, a middle man – it is what allows us to buy coffee, for it is truly ‘coffee, coffee, coffee that makes the world go round.’

Coffee has become so integral to contemporary times one’s mood can be defined by their order. For instance, the pin striped man that has just entered – he orders a double espresso; obviously he has a deadline and needs an extra boost. Stressed. Behind him a skinny blonde teenager who has obviously been spending too much time at the gym or too little time eating. She orders a white coffee with skinny milk. Image conscious. Behind her a handsome greying father. He orders an Americano, he takes it with sugar. At Ease.

Perhaps I am being slightly generic, but you get the gist – coffee is not only a delicious beverage, but it has come to symbolise humanity. If my Mocha were a man, it would be George Clooney – sumptuous, tall and utterly delicious. If the girls white coffee was a person, it would be Paris Hilton – blonde, skinny and boring.

Segregated into two main categories; the Arabica and the Robusta, coffee beans have been mixed, roasted and blended over the centuries in the quest for the perfect brew. Today we are spoilt for choices; cappuccino, espresso, latte, mocha – an attractive Italian girl has just placed an order for a caramel frappacino with extra cream. I focus on her as she tosses back her inky hair and delicately licks the cream oozing over the glasses rim. The act looks like something from a soft-core porno, rather than the corner of a coffee shop. I ponder – could coffee be classified as sexual? Could Ann Summers create a Luscious Latte Lube? The mind boggles.

She stirs the iced drink softly and laughs revealing a perfect set of pearly whites. I look to the opposite corner where an elderly woman, munching on a bar of rocky road is unwittingly covering her friend in bits of marshmallow, in between gulps of gingerbread latte. I realise that is the Italian girl that makes the coffee appealing, not the coffee itself. I suppose it is in her blood, Italy and coffee go hand in hand.

Baptised by Pope Clement VIII in 1600, coffee is core to Italian society. The drink is given a separate schedule, it is not the post-meal afterthought it is here, it has its own time – just as it should. In Italy, coffee has the potential to be romantic, philosophical and rebellious; indeed Verdi quoted it as being, ‘the balm to the heart and spirit.’ As women and men sit in the sunshine with their Mocha complexions and tanned drinks one can only think that this is where god intended coffee to be drunk.

We must not forget Italy’s neighbour, for in France coffee is also key to the mechanics of society. Coffee is part of their literary history – is it not true that Sartre wrote ‘Being and Nothingness’ in ‘The Café Fleur’ on Boulevard St Germaine? Rich, oily and robust, French coffee is tantalising to the taste buds. In an interview Johnny Depp said that if he could live anywhere he would live in 1920’s Paris. Why would he pick that era many wondered – I wondered why anyone wouldn’t. 1920’s Paris, aka -Coffee, Chantilly and Cigarellos.

Coffee has a well-deserved place throughout European history. Indeed we can look closer to home, for Lloyds of London was founded in a coffee house. Moreover, the second greatest selling book of all time was first sketched out on coffee house napkins – Yes, I do refer to the one and only, ‘Harry Potter.’ From the Wizarding world to one of the most influential philosophical books of all time – where are the boundaries of this delicious drink?

Let me bring you back to the coffee house in which I reside, back to the elderly woman who has finally demolished her calorific treat and back to the exotic Italian beauty. From Kenya, to Italy, to America, to England, coffee has swept over the globe, engulfing us with its sensual flavours. A drink no, a commodity yes. In fact, Coffee was such a valuable commodity in 15th century Turkey that if a husband could not provide enough of the beverage for his wife it was suitable grounds for a divorce!  Leaning back in my chair and taking my last sip of luke warm Mocha, I give sincere thanks to the ‘Galla’ tribe of Ethiopia for discovering such a bountiful bean.




The Cereal Dieter

The Cereal Dieter

British novelist W. Somerset Maugham stated that ‘If you want to eat well in England, eat three breakfasts.’ And why wouldn’t he? With over fifty brands of cereals, breakfast in the U.K is a culinary buffet. Whatever your mood – they’ll be a cereal to match. Happy – Cheerios, Busy – Weetabix, Depressed – Porridge, Indulgent – Choco Crackles…the list goes on.

Cereals have usurped the ‘Full English’s’ position as the symbol of the British breakfast. Cereal simply works better with our lifestyle: quick and easy. We just do not have time to mess about with eggs, bacon and a frying pan before work, and that’s without even bringing sausages, toast and black pudding into the equation. Cereal is the way forward. What better way to start your day (both physically and digestively) than with a bowel (pun intended) of ‘Bran Flakes?’

Breakfast cereals have become more than a meal, they have become a lifestyle. We care about cereal – Tony the Tiger is more than a cartoon; he is a friend. Snap, Crackle and Pop aren’t just the mascots of Rice Krispies; they are little brothers. Remember the controversy when ‘Coco Pops’ became ‘Choco Krispies?’ There was a national outcry. I mean honestly – the syllables didn’t even match the jingle!

Recent times however have seen cereal change – there are people out there, crazy people, to whom cereal is not just a breakfast option but a full time diet. There are people who are defying the cereal culture and are utilising cereal as a method to lose weight. I speak, of course, of The Special K diet.

The Special K diet works upon the premise that you must consume a bowl of cereal for breakfast and for lunch, with a well-balanced meal for supper. This is easy one thinks as one piles a mound of Special K into one’s bowl with a good dousing of semi-skimmed milk. One is wrong and one is not doing the diet properly.

If one looks at the fine print, you realise that 30 grams, I repeat 30 grams constitutes one bowl. In my books thirty grams is barely a handful, let alone a bowl. Even 30 grams of Shreddies wouldn’t keep ‘hunger locked up ‘till lunch!’ The fine print goes yet further; one is to use low-fat or fat free milk – so basically you are eating a toddlers handful of cereal covered in what may as well be water. Delicious!

I’m not saying that cereal diets do not work. No doubt if one stuck rigidly to the Special K diet, you would lose the promised 2 pounds a week. But is it really worth it? Would it not be better to eat a proper bowl of cereal, with actual milk and do some exercise? It’s all very well sitting on the sofa with your tiny spoon munching on soggy flakes for two weeks and losing 4 pounds, but you’re still not going to be toned – if anything you’ll just have a bit more excess skin. To look good and feel good you need to be healthy. You need a balanced, wholesome diet and you need to exercise.

However with our surroundings we cannot blame ourselves too much – responsibility for our deluded nation surely lies, in part, with the media. Images of lean figured beauties chewing slowly on spoonfuls of moist cereal dominate our screens. ‘If they can do it why can’t we?’ The little voice in the back of our head pipes up. What you don’t see is the fat bird on the bean bag who is eating exactly the same thing. It just wouldn’t sell as well.

Peoples metabolisms are different therefore peoples diets should be different. Just because one woman eats two bowls of cereal and has a size ten figure does not mean the same will work for you. Also, realistically you are not going to eat two bowls of cereal twice a day for the rest of your life, so the weight you lose will come straight back when you stop. Furthermore, it’s pretty bloody anti-social; when you get invited out to lunch what are you going to do? Bring a tupperware box to whip out after your friend finishes their starter – I think not.

Cereal was made to be enjoyed, not to aid weight-loss. When you munch on a bowl of Frosties, Tony doesn’t want you to be thinking about calories; he wants you to be thinking how ‘grrrrrrrreat’ they are. We need to stop thinking about how much fat, how much sugar and how many calories there are in food – things just don’t taste quite so good when you’re racking up figures in your head. You didn’t see the cave men saying ‘Oh no, I couldn’t possibly – do you know how many calories are in that?’ If you want to slim down for summer then join the gym. Or follow the simple rule: Eat Less, Run More.

When W. Somerset Maugham stated that ‘If you want to eat well in England, eat three breakfasts,’ he did not mean it as a means to lose weight. He meant it as Breakfast being the best meal of the day, so much so you would want to eat it for every meal. We have become lost in contemporary society; we have been morphed into calorie counting robots. We are warned here, there and everywhere about what to eat and what not to eat and consequently food has lost half of its enjoyment. Break from the mould people! Eat three meals a day, exercise and don’t snack – you’ll have slimmed down for summer before you know it.