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

October 25, 2013

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.

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