Letter From Home “Maxwell House Coffee” 10-25-13

There is something extra special about pouring a hot cup of freshly brewed coffee these days.  Part of it is due to the much cooler fall temperatures that not only chill the outside air but seeps into the house and alerts me that seasonal changes are moving fast.  Pulling on a sweater while reaching for a coffee mug makes for a warm and cozy feeling.  Glancing out the window the honey locust leaves let loose their tiny grip on the trees.  The gusts of wind off the lake rake the leaves from the branches in such fury they resemble snow showers as they flutter all over the area.  Though I drink coffee every day I think it never tastes better or smells richer than when the weather is chilly.  It is hard not to smile while holding a warm mug in my hands.

I guess it is the weather that prompted me to think not only about coffee in general, but also to talk with James over the past few days about Maxwell House Coffee.  Though I do not drink Maxwell as an adult, it was the coffee that was brewed every day while growing up in Hancock.  It was memories of the smell that came from the same glass coffee maker all those years on the stove back home that pulled me to the coffee aisle today at Hy-Vee.

I must say the coffee I buy as an adult are the beans I grind myself at the store, such as Morning Blend or French Roast.  I am not a coffee snob but do order through the mail Blueberry Cobbler from New England Coffee, and never allow my supply of Chocolate Raspberry to run too low without restocking.

Having said that it might then seem strange for me to pick up the plastic blue container of Maxwell House and place it in our grocery cart.

As a kid, the metal can of coffee had a yellow plastic lid that held the grounds safely inside once the metal top was removed.  I remember many a time standing near the cupboards as the can opener plunged into the air-packed container and the ‘pooosh’ sound would be instantly followed by the rich aroma of the coffee grounds.  It made my mouth salivate as a kid, and the smell of coffee grounds still produces such an effect.

My parents had one of the glass coffee makers with a metal band around the upper mid-section of the pot.  Inside there was a light-weight metal percolating apparatus.  In the morning the first thing that I could always hear once the lights in the house came on was the glass top clinking as it was removed for the water and grounds to be added.

As I held the plastic can today I thought how much times have changed.  Once the metal can was empty of coffee it was not tossed, but turned over and the bottom end was removed.  The can was saved in a bushel basket in the barn along with many others from over the years.  Come planting time each young tomato when placed in the ground had a metal coffee tin placed around it so the cut worms would not munch on the green stems.  Come fall the cans would be pulled from the ground, and Dad tapped each one with a hoe to knock off clumps of dirt.  Then away the coffee cans were taken to again wait for another warm planting day the following year.

Several of the used coffee tins were allowed to keep their bottom ends, but Dad would tap several nail holes in them so to be used through the summer as watering cans.  Taking a 5-gallon bucket of water to the garden along with one of those cans allowed for young plants to be watered gently, almost as if it were rain, and not washed away with a sudden surge of water had the bucket been poured.

At home today I pulled back the light tin foil type closing over the grounds and let the aroma loose in the kitchen.  James was alongside me, but his dislike for coffee was not changed by this experience.  The coffee grounds did have a rich full scent, but not as robust as my normal ritual.   I placed several tablespoons into my machine and smelled the brewing process as I tidied up from the shopping trip.   I poured a cup and since it was late afternoon sat in a rocker and picked up a book.

As I sat there it dawned on me that many years ago during the holiday season I had bought some Maxwell Coffee as the tins were warmly decorated with old family scenes around the table.  I knew we had one saved and placed up high in the kitchen along with other memories.   I got up to see it again, and noticed that James has used it to store every wishbone from each turkey we have made together over the years.  That is really sweet.   I knew we had the collection, but was not aware he had stored them in that tin.  There were countless number of wishbones along with the reminder that Maxwell “is good to the last drop.”

I am not likely to be changing my coffee drinking habits as a result of today’s walk down memory lane.  The best part of Maxwell House Coffee is not the actual cup of java, but the memories it pulls out from storage.

May it be that way with every cup of coffee I pour.

Chaz Ebert (Roger Ebert’s Wife) Urges Steve Dahl And Garry Meier To Bury Hatchet For Induction Into National Radio Hall of Fame


It seems there are many who are hoping for the better angels to lead the way when it comes to Steve Dahl’s announcement that he will not be attendance for his induction into the National Radio Hall of Fame.  The war of words between Steve Dahl and his former radio partner Garry Meier are legendary.  I added my comments to this mess on CP last night. Those lingering differences and resentments are now clouding what otherwise would be a most amazing evening for the broadcast world.

As such Chaz Ebert, wife of the famed Roger Ebert, has added her voice to the chorus of others for Steve and Garry to move on and come together for this event.

Dear Steve: Please go! Yes, please join Garry Meier and attend your induction into the National Radio Hall of Fame at the Museum of Broadcast Communications on Nov. 9. Take Janet and your sons and let them help you bask in the honor you have been overdue for too long. And please start making more positive remarks about Garry and the event. Time to pour honey over the wounds.

And Garry: Please call Steve to discuss it. Bury the hatchet long enough to unite for this event. Do it for Chicago, but most of all, do it to free your heart from the prison of 20 years of resentment. You are an intelligent man, and I cannot profess to know what is in your heart and mind, but this whole thing must still sting. Give it one more try.

I don’t usually intercede uninvited in other people’s squabbles, but this just feels like it is crying out for someone to step in. That event will be so much better and so much more meaningful if it is attended by both of you and your families. I bet more Chicagoans will attend if you are both there.

I wasn’t planning to attend because I will be out of town, but if I know you both will be there, I will come. There are some names that just sound right together, especially in Chicago. Steve Dahl and Garry Meier, Garry Meier and Steve Dahl, either way, it just sounds right.

Former Head Of NSA Michael Hayden Overheard On Train, Twitter World ‘Listened’

This is one of those stories that could open a great spy thriller.

It was just a background conversation on the Acela train ride north on Thursday.

Or so thought Michael V. Hayden, the former head of the National Security Agency, as he chatted away with three journalists who called him for comment on the recent reports of N.S.A. eavesdropping on the leaders of France and Germany.       

What Mr. Hayden did not realize was that a passenger a few seats away was doing some eavesdropping of his own.       

Tom Matzzie, a former Washington director of the political group MoveOn.org, was so intrigued by the tidbits he heard from Mr. Hayden, who is also a former C.I.A. director, that he pulled out his cellphone and started posting Twitter messages.       

“Former NSA spy boss Michael Hayden on Acela behind me blabbing ‘on background as a former senior admin official,’ ” Mr. Matzzie wrote. “Sounds defensive.”       

For the next several minutes, Mr. Matzzie dashed out occasional — and detailed — updates about Mr. Hayden’s conversations.       

“Michael Hayden on Acela giving reporters disparaging quotes about admin,” Mr. Matzzie wrote.       

“ ‘Remember, just refer as former senior admin.’ ”       

Within minutes, Mr. Matzzie ignited a small uproar on Twitter.       

Reached Thursday night on the Acela home to Washington from a speech in Newark, Mr. Hayden said, “I cannot recall a single disparaging comment I made about the administration,” disputing Mr. Matzzie’s post. “I wasn’t saying anything sensitive or classified. These were just routine conversations. I can’t believe you guys are making such a big deal out of this.”