This morning as my stove top espresso maker was completing it’s brewing task, and it made that volcano about to erupt sound that means coffee is imminent, I declared, “There’s that sound!” like I’ve said a thousand times before.
But this coffee brewer is new. I’ve been using a different method for years. So my instinctual reaction, the words, the anticipation in my pores, is a throwback to a time in my life I can barely remember in my old age.
Working in “the field.”
As I poured my hot drink into my mug I said to MCB, “This is how I used to make coffee in the field. I love that sound.”
“You carried one of those in the field? No wonder your shoulders hurt.”
Well, duh, of course that’s part of the problem, but was it worth it to have a decent brew at 4 am before climbing the Wham Ridge with a bunch of whiney, incompetent teenagers?
Most definitely, yes.
What I didn’t say was, “Don’t forget to add in the 2 pounds of coffee to get me through until the next resupply.”
And the down jacket, the 30-below down sleeping bag, hammock for a 3-day solo, geology and natural history books, climbing gear (rope, rack, shoes), ice axe, helmet, stove, fuel, clothes, mid (shelter), various and sundry other items (journal, chacos, chocolate), and enough food to keep this scrawny little body from completely wasting away at 13,000 ft.
If I could fit it into my Astralplane, I carried it.
And anything and everything could fit into that pack.
I once carried 90 lbs.
At 20,000 ft.
I lost an inch in height.
This was before plastic french presses. I did carry a glass one for a summer but finally broke it over a fire ring trying to knock the grinds out of the bottom and had to drink cowboy coffee for 3 days.
It was horrid.
Besides cowboy coffee (swirling the grinds around in a pot of boiling water then tap-tap-tapping the sides to get the grinds to settle enough to pour it into a mug) the other options were:
The Gold Filter, which, while light to carry, made light coffee and had a tendency to tip over just as the last of the water made it through and into the mug.
There was The Sock. Some fucking genius thought that one could make coffee in a large cotton condom, over and over, each and every day, and that it would actually taste good.
I tried some of those.
Tea? Blech. Tea is fine before bed or after being caught in a storm – it serves its purpose when one needs to warm up but it definitely doesn’t satisfy in the dark and the cold when one has to motivate to put on a heavy pack and climb to the top of a mountain.
In other words, as a motivator, it sucks.
But what sucked even worse were coffee substitutes.
Pero, the substitute of choice, especially in my militant vegan days, was vile, although I pretended to love it just as I pretended to enjoy Textured Vegetable Protein.
A little chicory and barley powder mixed with a little powdered soy milk and voila! you have a morning drink that will make you want to hide back in your sleeping bag.
After you hurl.
I realize that there are many other options out there nowadays; that brewing up is still the pleasure that it always was, just a lot lighter and easier.
For one, someone came up with the idea of small, lightweight, backpacking stoves instead of a Whisperlite and 60 oz of white gas.
But back in the old days, the 9-cup, aluminum (which is why I barely remember those days and will soon forget them all together) ultra heavy, ultra noisy pot was the best option.
So when I hear that sound in my kitchen in the morning, coming from a stainless pot, no longer aluminum, it brings a smile to my face; memories flood my not yet awake brain.
And my shoulders start to hurt.
“Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.”