Tuesday, March 24, 2009

COFFEE: A Perk for the Arts

Left: Jean Brusselmans (1884-1953), Woman in Kitchen, 1938

Jean Metzinger (1883-1956) French Cubist painter, Woman with Coffee Pot, 1919

"In Seattle you haven't had enough coffee until you can thread a sewing machine needle while it's running."

Attributed to Jeff Bezos of Amazon.com and well-known computer entrepreneur (as it appeared on the Quote Garden @ www.quotegarden.com)

As the quote about Seattle implies, it all began there, with Seattle's Best in 1970, and the first Starbucks in 1971 at Pike Place Market.

But for me, Dutchman Alfred Peet was the coffee connection when he opened his first store in north central California, in Berkeley, at the corner of Walnut and Vine in 1966, Peet's Coffee & Tea.

Since then, I have not only nourished my coffee addiction but also have become fascinated by the way that American artists - folk, popular and fine - have latched on to coffee as a metaphor, a motif, or as a reason for exquisite silver smithing. There are interesting precedents, beginning in eighteenth century Europe and in colonial America.

Decaf or caffeinated, coffee has inspired a lot of artistic expression.

Even before I began my love affair with Peet's coffee, there was James Bond, aficianado of Kentucky bourbon whiskey, cold martinis (shaken with Kina Lillet and an extra shot of vodka), and serious coffee. He usually drinks European-style coffee black, but in From Russian With Love (1957), Bond's first breakfast in Istanbul is quite different and therefore memorable:

The yoghourt, in a blue china bowel, was deep yellow and with the consistency of thick cream. The green figs, ready-peeled, were bursting with ripeness, and the Turkish coffee was jet black and with the burned taste that showed it had been freshly ground.

My man!

Here at home in the 21st century, we have Robert Parker's detective fiction series called The Spencer novels - solid crime-solving narratives with wry, humorous dialogue that amuses and charms most readers. It's been termed "male bonding banter" by sympathetic critics. In addition to pursuing bad guys, hunky Spencer spars at the gym with his equally-fit and loyal partner, Hawk, with whom he also drinks a lot of coffee, often with a bag of Dunkin Donuts at his elbow. Spencer is more sophisticated about his dinners at home with his girl friend -veal scalopini, lamb shanks, duck and things like that. Totally cool.

1 comment:

monaluna said...

great post! you should add tags....