Coffee

Below is an impression about Coffee taken from the “Incidents of Western Travels,” letters written by George Pierce a Methodist Minister on a trip out to the Indian Mission in Oklahoma in 1856 and published in 1857.
A little before dark we came to an Indian cabin, and by signs and gestures made known our wish to tarry for the night. By signs and gestures we were made to understand that we could stay. We were left, of course, to wait upon ourselves; so we stripped our horses and led them to water; and when we returned, our host had brought to the lot a turn of corn and fodder, and as he let his own horses out, we put ours in and fed them to our hearts’ content. Now we marched to the house t* see about our own prospects for food and rest. There was but one room, but this was neat and comfortable, save that there was about it an undefinable odor, any thing but pleasant. It is common, I learned, to Indian habitations. The man, his wife and children, were well clad, and were attentive and polite according to their notions. Not a word of English could we get from any of the household. They could speak it, for they understood us very well in much of our talk: that was very obvious.

My good friend, McAlister, undertook to secure us a good supper by giving special directions, more particularly about the coffee—with me, when good, a favorite article. But, alas ! he succeeded better with every thing else than with this necessary beverage. By the way—pardon a little digression on this interesting theme—bad coffee is one of the afflictions of the land, and it is one of the miseries of travel. We find it everywhere—in taverns and private houses—among the rich and the poor. Often, when every thing else is clean and well prepared, the coffee is execrable stuff. Weak, or black, or unsettled, it is enough to make a well man sick. Why is this ? It is not stinginess, for there is often enough of the raw material, if it had been boiled and cleared. Sometimes, it is true, a man has to drink a good deal of water to get a little coffee ; but, generally, the difficulty is that the fluid is.muddy, the grounds all afloat; and then “the cup cheers” not, but sadly offends sight, smell, and taste.

The country needs a reform. It is more necessary to the welfare of the people than some other things that agitate the nation. In these days of Womens’ Rights I will not invade their province by pretending to give a recipe. I will only say, there must be good grains, well parched—not burnt—well boiled, and well settled; and then, as the cookery-books say, cream (not milk) and siigar “according to taste.” A lady of my acquaintance says it takes a tablespoonful of coffee to every cup; a little more would not hurt to make the article decently good. I wish the people—Indians and all—would try her proportions.

Posted by Lynn Coleman at 7:41 AM

Labels: 1856, 1857, Food, old letters

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