Neanderthal Café

Neanderthal Café

When I brought my Italian friend
to Caffe Tre Fontane, he corrected me:
“This is not an Italian café, it’s a Sicilian café.”

On the wall across from our table is a poster
of Baggio, the football star, and right next to him
is a beautiful Heimlich maneuver poster
in orange, blue and yellow entitled:
“If someone is choking….”

When the cappuccinos were served
we sweetened them and then I proceeded
to spoon the foam into my mouth
before drinking the coffee, since this was
my favorite part. He informed me that
if I ever did that in Italy,
the barista would first call everyone
over to my table to laugh at me
and then he would grab me by the ear
and throw me out.

So I learned to drink in a civilized manner.
He also demonstrated proper stirring techniques:
the businessman’s style, the artistic touch….
Next time, things were fine – we sugared,
we drank it down, but then I faux pas’d
by spooning out the foam that remained
clinging to the sides and the bottom.
This was also a no-no.

Then I was taught the fine art of swirling
the coffee in the cup from time to time
to keep the foam from clinging to the sides.
After a few weeks practice I graduated
to the rank of “advanced beginner.”

Occasionally the swirling coffee spills out
of the cup and onto my pants or newspaper.
I asked him if there was a name for this
flying cappuccino spill. He said that there is
no name for it – that it doesn’t exist.

I know that the Italians invented cappuccino
but if the Jews had invented it
there would be a cute name
for this neat little mess.

– Kanan Roberts.


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