I’m sitting here trying not to listen to Alvin and the Chipmunks, which the kids are watching. I have a low tolerance for squeaky voices, which makes my adoration of my daughter all the more remarkable since she was very squeaky for a number of years. But that’s beside the point.

Yesterday, I made a new friend. “Will you be my best friend?” I asked her. No, just kidding; I was channelling my 8 year old self there for a minute. It’s the voices, the voices. Not to mention the spunky beat. Augh.

We do not own this movie. We will never own this movie.

When we lived in France, I made friends with an Italian woman named Angela. She had a son in Abel’s class. “I speak American,” she told me the first time we met, just outside the elementary school. “I used to live in Chicago.” She pronounced it with a hard CH, CHick-AH-go.

Depending on my schedule, which varied daily, I used to sometimes follow her home from dropping off our children. Her house had pictures of saints and her mother in her coffin. Her sons were named things like Anthony and Joseph; they wore gold jewellery and leather jackets and rode fast motorcycles and they would ask her for more money. “But I already gave-a you da money!” she would shout at them, gesticulating with her arms. “But I need-a more-a!” Anthony or Joseph or Giovanni (I forget his real name but it was just as Italian) would shout back, arms just as active. I would stare, bemused. Wasn’t this behaviour just a cheap American stereotype of Italians? Apparently not. We saw this when we visited Italy and couldn’t find our hotel. “It’s-a no-a far-a!” said the Italians we asked, gesticulating helpfully down the street. “Are you for real?” said Donn.

It was in Angela’s kitchen that I really learned to love Italian coffee. Living in France, I learned to drink café noir, just a shot of espresso in a demitasse cup, black, sipped slowly and made to last for hours while you chat with a friend. I had thought that was strong. The Italians use the same amount of coffee and the same size cups, but half the water so that the coffee is twice as strong. You can get this coffee anywhere in Italy, even in the roadside stops next to gas stations. It will ruin you for American coffee; especially the frou-frou kind.

The other day (ok the other month but then I got sick and then I got busy), I met one of my new neighbours. She is Italian, married to a Moroccan, and has a daughter in Ilsa’s class at school. “Drop by any time,” she urged me. So on Sunday afternoon, I took a plate of my home-made fudge and did just that.

She made me coffee (swoon!), thereby cementing our friendship, at least from my side. She liked the fudge a lot too, so I could see this being mutually beneficial. I don’t know what the magic is. She uses Lavazza coffee; I use Lavazza coffee. She uses a stove-top machine, as did Angela. I have 2 or 3 stove-top machines in Mauritania and I have used them plenty, but it’s never as good. I believe Italian women are blessed at birth by the coffee fairy (or maybe at their first communion? I‘m not Catholic so I don‘t know), while the rest of us have to labour and strive and make mistakes along the long hard path to coffee nirvana. I can make French coffee, which is very good, but Italian coffee continues to elude me.

She sent me home with samples of herbs from their land, located just outside the city, and half a dozen roses, red and yellow and pink. Their scent fills the room as I type; they are full-blown today and beginning to droop. “It’s not really the season for roses,” she told me, but the blooms are still beautiful.

Some might think I take coffee too seriously, which I don’t. But I’m not as bad as some! I’ve been very amused by this interaction lately. First, read this NY Times article, which scooped this very funny post by Wacky Mommy’s husband. It was picked up by Starbucks themselves, and then mocked mercilessly by a French blogger! It has had me in stitches. Enjoy!

EDITED TO ADD:

Here is a rough translation of the first two paragraphs of the French blogger.

“It’s happening already, just as we predicted. First they kept giving their
coffees names that were more and more complicated and they came up with
fantastic combos (the vanilla caramel frappucino double shot soy latte with
tomato soup to go…who’s it for?). Now the coffee sellers have surpassed
themselves.

Whoever wants to become a “barista” (the new glamourous name for the guys
behind the espresso machines) must pass an entrance test for NASA in order
to get a 5th-grade job.”

…the rest just explains it…

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