Rush Hour Turkish Coffee
"Coffee should be black as hell, strong as death, and sweet as love." - Turkish Proverb
There I was, in Ft. Lauderdale today, doing my usual errands of a Friday afternoon.
Now, that part of South Florida should never be negotiated on Fridays, let alone on the latter half of the afternoon -- traffic, which is usually at a standstill in Downtown, is completely logjammed at that hour.
You sit, wait, and wait. And wait some more.
There were two cop cars in either lane of me, and yet, they did nothing about what I call stop-light spill-overs:
You know, those people who decide they can squeeze their Escalade on a turn-signal, thus completely interrupting traffic flow all around them. Ain't that illegal? Or at least, rude?
In the UK, a street copper (note: no one under 101 calls them "Bobbies") would have directed traffic until the congestion had bettered, but you'll never get a South Floridian out from the a/c'ed car if you can help it, cop or no, so we all had to have patience.
That's when I saw the shop.
A Lebanese speciality grocers, although to be sure, I didn't know it was Lebanese just by looking at window.
It had Arabic script alongside the English, advertising their general Middle Eastern emporium.
But since we have a fairly good-sized community of Lebanese here, almost all of them Christian and from affluent backgrounds, chances were they were Lebanese too.
And they were.
The owner had a very strange expression when I came in.
You may think I flatter myself, and perhaps I do, but it was close to ecstatic.
Maybe he was just thinking, "Ooh, a new customer!", but woman-like, I had a gut-feeling, and that was that he was grateful, not just happy, I had come in.
Did some people shy away from associating themselves with anything Middle-Eastern or "Arab", these days?
(Although Syrians and Turks, amongst many others in the area, are of course, not Arabs, in part or at all)
I doubt it. South Floridians are fairly easy-going, and the majority of the time, let people do what they do.
Had I known the man better, I may have half-flirtatiously questioned him, but as it was, I didn't.
There were only men in the shop, who did look at me rather shall we say, guardedly, as he dropped all his previous conversations to attend to me.
I had just popped in on a whim, but suddenly, I remembered I had always wanted to have an cezve -- a Turkish coffee pot, which has many names in the region (ibrik, jezve, etc.).
So off I went, with the short Lebanese gentleman (about 2 inches smaller than I, and I'm not big), to learn all about "Turkish" style coffee.
He was happy to answer all my questions, and when I asked him how to make the coffee, he patiently explained it not once, but twice, and was almost going to take me to his kitchenette in the back, to teach me, when I realised the rush hour would get no better if I doddled.
I was careful not to cause offence, because a sudden desire to escape might be construed as more than just rudeness.
But he took it well, and after giving me a taste of his hummus and baba ghannouj (I bought half-a-pound of the hummus), I left with my Cafe Najjar and new coffee pot, in hand.
I have this funny reaction to coffee. Maybe it happens to you too.
It makes me sleepy.
In fact, all caffeine does.
So at 11 PM at night, I decided to make myself some Turkish-style coffee.
According to the shop owner, one should take the coffee pot, and measure the water carefully.
I would make two cups worth, so I put in two cups of water, then 8 cubes of sugar (I don't have loose sugar, so I just use "Dixie Crystals" or Domino Dot sugarcubes), and two teaspoons of cardamom coffee.
You have to let it come to the froth not once, but at least 3 times (!), using low flame to let it boil slowly.
This allows the coffee grinds to settle in a liquidy paste at bottom, which looks rather like Jed Clampett crude oil.
After it has frothed three times, you pour it with the long handle unto your demitasse cups, let it rest for a minute, and sip it.
Mama mia, what a taste.
I rolled it on my tongue a while, to get used to the taste, which is very unusual, even for my espresso-addicted tastebuds.
I had, of course, had Turkish coffee in my travels, but it's quite a different thing to actually do it yourself.
Then I drank it.
The cardamom gives it a very nutty taste, which is an acquired taste, but how I acquired it instantly.
I loved the frothiness, although truly the best coffee I have ever had is the mega-frothy capuccini in Rome.
Noticing my heart start to accelerate, I thought it best not to drink too much, since perhaps this inky gloopy coffee would have the more usual trick of making one too wired, rather than my usual somniforousness.
But I just had to swirl the coffee grinds in my cup, three times, like one does with tea, and try to divine my fortune.
Reading tea leaves, and coffee grounds are an ancient art, usually best practised in company, and whose lead was taken by women.
It's inevitable, since often our fate has not been our own to do as we wished, and this might have been a way of trying to figure out a life over which we had little control.
Or maybe we were just bored.
Here is my coffee cup.
Look at it above, again.
I Googled to see if we can read anything into this gooeyness, which apart from its suitably Turkish crescent shape, to me just looks murky and formless.
Before you click on the link here, think of the shape the grounds are making.
My favourite is:
Fish: Life will become richer, happier and more attractive to you.
That is certainly a fortune I would wish to all who enjoyed this blog cup o' joe with me today.
Although this ain't bad either:
Dog: Good, reliable friends.
Who could ask for anything more?
P.S.: Stop the presses! I just double-checked the Cafe Najjar link I gave above, to show you how the bag looks like.
That's when I noticed this whopping pile of e-poo.
Cafe Najjar With Cardamon
Ingredients: Brazilian ground coffee.Vaccum packed.
Storage: Keep in cool and dry place.
Net weight: 200gx5.
Squeeze me? Baking powder? I paid all of U$3.99 for one vacuum-sealed coffee!
I'm not sure what currency these online Lebanese market peddlers are using, but I think I'm in the wrong business.
Never mind blogging. I'm opening up a bazaar!