Secret Potions

Are there any secret potions in the world that are truly magic? I wondered about this as I made my coffee this morning. Coffee is neither secret, nor a potion, but I do wonder if perhaps it might not be magic. The entire concept of creating something as fine as coffee tends to boggle the mind. For example, in order for coffee to be any good you have to roast the beans, grind them up, percolate hot water through them, and then, depending on your preference, add cream and or sugar, or just drink it black.

How does one go through all those steps just to create a food? And how many times do you have to develop something truly awful before you get to the really good thing?

Coffee doesn’t happen by accident, it just can’t. Not anymore than cheese, bread or wine. You have to work at those things. You have to time stuff. You have to have the right conditions (not too moist, not too dry). How does that work?

I imagine the first time someone made coffee. They probably just tried chewing on the raw beans. Yuck. That clearly isn’t going to be something yummy.

Maybe the second time someone tried, they had tipped a bunch of the coffee beans into the fire, and someone said “Hey, wait, that smells good.” So then they sat around and chewed the roasted beans. Some of them were not quite roasted enough, and others were probably burned. But then, like with Goldilocks, some were just right.

But wait, there are still so many steps to go through.

Probably someone realized that there was too much work involved in chewing the beans. What happens if you chop ‘em, mash ‘em, grind ‘em? Well, OK, now it’s less work, but it’s kinda gritty. I’m imagining someone with a mouthful of coffee grinds, half of them smeared all over their face. The expression would be priceless. They’re saying to themselves “Really? Someone thought I’d actually like this? Maybe this person secretly hates me.”

Again, a serendipitous accident. Someone knocks over a bowl of coffee grinds. They fall into a bowl of water. Presumably, no one notices for a while. Someone comes home to a dark, mahogany colored bowl of water, with the grinds resting at the bottom. It looks lovely. It has a faint aroma that promises something deep, rich and sensual. Mmm.

Except room temperature.

Do we see the problem here? Each permutation until the last, final, perfected one is most likely quite disgusting. Or at least, nowhere near edible. So how do these kinds of accidents happen? How does one manage to get from nasty, bitter, raw coffee beans to … well, heaven?

Photo: Getty Images

The Chicago Manual of Style Online: Chicago-Style Citation Quick Guide

How to cite a book if it’s electronic (Kindle, etc.) – about to come in handy for my paper!

Book published electronically

If a book is available in more than one format, cite the version you consulted. For books consulted online, list a URL; include an access date only if one is required by your publisher or discipline. If no fixed page numbers are available, you can include a section title or a chapter or other number.

1. Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice (New York: Penguin Classics, 2007), Kindle edition.

2. Philip B. Kurland and Ralph Lerner, eds., The Founders’ Constitution (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987), accessed February 28, 2010, http://press-pubs.uchicago.edu/founders/.

3. Austen, Pride and Prejudice.

4. Kurland and Lerner, Founder’s Constitution, chap. 10, doc. 19.

Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. New York: Penguin Classics, 2007. Kindle edition.

Kurland, Philip B., and Ralph Lerner, eds. The Founders’ Constitution. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987. Accessed February 28, 2010. http://press-pubs.uchicago.edu/founders/.

via The Chicago Manual of Style Online: Chicago-Style Citation Quick Guide.