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9.29.2011

Coffee or Tea?

Yes, I know, many traditional foodies, particularly WAPS, shun caffeine as a stimulant (ie drug).  But I am my own person.  And I like my drugs.
Breakfast isn't breakfast for me without coffee.  PS that egg is totally overcooked...
I'm not even going to argue or attempt to disagree with them (although there are as many studies saying coffee and tea are good as there are that say it is bad).  I know that caffeine is a drug.  And this story I'm about to tell proves it beyond a doubt.  I apologize in advance, as I'm a boring storyteller.  And this is kind of a long and relatively pointless story...

Man, I need to stop trying to scare off all my readers.

My family is cursed.  It's a rather unique curse, and as far as curses go I'll take it.  Whenever there is an important day, particularly the kind that cause stress, an appliance dies.  One Thanksgiving, one of the few my mom has hosted the ENTIRE family, the oven died.  The day of my brother's funeral the coffee pot stopped working AND the sink clogged (no, the sink is not an appliance, but YKWIM).  Those are the most traumatically memorable... but there are others I can't remember right now.  And most often it's the stinking coffee pot (in a family of coffee addicts) that bites the dust at the worst possible moment.

I seem to have inherited this curse.  I had an awesome Delonghi coffee pot that had never given me a problem in over a year.  Now, do you recollect how stressed out I was when Izzy started school (only indirectly because of her starting school...)?  I may or may not have even mentioned that on her first day of school the coffee pot completely failed to turn on.  Like the power had been cut.  I had some hot black tea, but it just isn't the same and tea gives me jitters (coffee doesn't...).  So I had to shop for a new pot and this time around, since I go through about a pot a year, I decided there was no reason for me to spend money on a fancy one.  I bought an $11 Chefmate at Target.

Fast forward about two weeks.  I wake up, flip on the coffee pot, and head out to do chores.  What do I find outside?  A dead chick and one of my older chickens is showing sure signs of impending death (purple comb, didn't get up to eat, breathing hard with beak opened...).  So I dispose of the chick and come to terms with the fact that I need to process the other TODAY (no more being chicken... sorry, really bad pun).  So I go inside to boil water and feed the kids and have some coffee... only no coffee.  The pot turned on, but wasn't heating.

Grr.

I fed the kids and ate a little, but got too caught up in getting ready to process (and processing- I rocked it this time, BTW... well, almost, but that's another post) and didn't make any tea.  By the time I finished processing the poor chicken, moved both tractors, gathered eggs, and cleaned up the processing area outside and the kitchen I was exhausted and starting to get a headache.  And for some reason I didn't think about caffeine withdrawl.  Since it was a Saturday and I had already accomplished a lot (and by this time it was about the kids' naptime) I gave myself permission to take a nap.

I woke up from my nap feeling terrible, but managed to make supper.  After eating a little I laid down (and watched the last episodes EVER of All My Children, but again, another post).  As I watched my head began to throb and the throbbing quickly got worse... and worse... and worse.  By the time it was over I felt extremely nauseous as well.  Finally I took a bunch of drugs (only Tylenol and Benadryl, but you know I don't really take drugs very often) and went to bed BEFORE THE KIDS (that never happens).

Yes, I had full on withdrawl symptoms- headache, nausea, simultaneously hot and chilled.  It was nowhere near what, say, a crack addict would go through, but it was bad enough.

The next morning I woke up feeling like a new woman.  And after I had broken the percolator out of the camping gear, I realized my mistake.  Before Oliver was born I used to do a caffeine detox every three months or so.  But I hadn't done one since before he was born (that's almost 3 years, FYI).  Lesson- don't ever do that again.

I'm also over drip coffee.

So, using the camping percolator in the meantime, I started shopping around for a bigger (prettier) stovetop pot.  Nothing electric.  And I figured while I was at it I should replace my tea kettle, which has had a leak for like two months now (not because I left it empty on a hot burner, I would never do something like that...).  To locate these items where did I go?  My local string of antique stores.

I know a lot of people don't think to look at antique stores for things they actually plan to use.  I love antique stores, but for the longest time they frustrated me because I would find so many interesting things but never be able to justify buying any of them as they were either impractical or overpriced (and often both).  Eventually I learned that the best way to survive antique stores was to have a focus- I have a running list of things for the home that I am shopping for, and I also always look at books, dishes (even though the ones I like are too expensive so I never buy- I'm particularly fond of fire king, especially the jadite), cast iron, and jewelry.  Jewelry is particularly fun because it is easy to find something totally fun and relatively cheap, and they always have simple beaded necklaces for $1 or less that I buy for Izzy.

Anyway... I hit the antique stores (there are 5 on one block) on a mission.  It only took two stores to find what I needed.
Pyrex percolator and cast iron tea pot.
I was looking for enameled steel on both cases, but came home with pyrex and cast iron.  I knew enameled steel was going to be hard to find, at least in usable condition, as most enameled steel I have found in the past is rusty and/or flaky on the inside.

The percolator is pyrex from the 50's or 60's.  It's a 9 cup pot, the largest they made.  All the pieces, including the pump (it's not actually a pump, it's the piece that looks like the bottom half of a wine glass that the water travels up when it boils) are glass except the top and bottom of the basket.  So while it isn't exactly consistant with my kitchen decor it looks nice and it's fun to watch the whole process.  And it will last me forever (or until I drop it...).  In fact, I was searching them on the interwebs just now and found that replacement parts, should I break the pump or basket, aren't that hard to find.  And it was only $24.  Awesome.

The tea kettle is heavy cast iron.  Despite my OBSESSION with cast iron I was a little apprehensive about this one- it's main purpose is to boil water, and wet cast iron isn't always the best idea (water+iron=rust).  And as such, the inside of the pot was a little rusty.  But after doing a quick in store search on my phone on cast iron tea pots, I decided it was worth the risk (especially at the price- $15).  And, unlike the coffee pot, it's rustic look is right at home in my kitchen.  I guess, to be fair to the aesthetic of the coffee pot, the combo of the two is very consistent- my kitchen is at the same time a little rustic country and a little funky (and a little dated- the range top and oven are both from the 70's at least...).

Anyway, I'm still not sure the teapot will be usable.  I cleaned up the rust and found that that it's pretty flaked (not flakey still, but like it had flaked in the past- rough, I guess would be a better word) on the inside.  After quite a bit of research I discovered this shouldn't be a problem, and since I'm not trying to cook anything that requires a smooth surface it's not a big deal.

I also discovered that "seasoning" a cast iron tea kettle is nothing like seasoning a regular cast iron pan.  You don't use oil or any of the other methods.  You fill it with water and heat it until almost all of the water is gone, then allow it to cool.  Repeat until minerals have built up around the pot.  Easy peasy.  The minerals provide the barrier between the iron and the rust.

Let me get this straight- the exact thing that I had worried about with past teapots (mineral buildup) I WANT to happen on this one?  Sign me up!

My husband joked when he saw my new kitchen toys that it looked like I was gearing up for a wood stove.  Now, I may be crazy (good crazy, don't take that the wrong way if you, too, are crazy like me), but I have no desire to go completely off grid, instead choosing to cut our energy use as much as possible without giving up certain conveniences.  If I needed to I could live without them, but I will never willingly give up my HE washer and dryer (clean clothes and entertainment in one!), my TV, or my fridge/freezer.  But I am enthralled with wood stoves.  I am aware that it is a romanticized interest, although not completely unrealistic.  Lots of people use wood stoves for various purposes- I grew up in a house heated mostly by a wood stove.  I know that they involve constant tending, venturing into the cold to bring in wood, and hours of chopping and splitting wood...  And that cooking and especially baking become a different game when you can't just turn a knob to your desired temp and walk away.  But I am still kind of enamored with the idea of a wood burning kitchen stove.  Probably because one of the aforementioned antique stores has the most awesome refurbished GREEN wood kitchen stove that would so be mine if 1) I had a spare $800 AND 2) I had a spot to put it.  But sadly I don't.

That was an amazingly wordy and wandery post.  What can I say, there are a lot of words in my head lately, and since I spend 90% of my time with the under 5 set, I have to get my big kid words out when I can.

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