Tonight at about 8 we went over to visit an Iraqi couple. They’re in their mid-70s and they are just awesome–they might take lots of pills and afternoon naps, but they are adventuresome. They go for drives, stop at farmer’s markets to chat with people, take food to the fire station next door. “You know, they are there sometimes 2 or 3 nights, away from their home,” they tell us. “So we take them food. They love Iraqi food!” One of their neighbours helped the woman bring in groceries from the car, so they took them a big platter of food too. And I realize, talking about this, that I’ve forgotten once again to bring back the plate from the last time she brought me food.

They are the ones who tell me they wish they’d moved to America 20 years ago. But they were afraid to come, expecting all America to be as represented by Hollywood. “We thought people crashed cars every day, there were chases, U-turns, crazy,” they tell us. “But the driving here is very safe.” And they tell me of a shortcut they take to a mutual friend’s house, over a small mountain, the road curvy and windy and dark at night but still safe, cars slowing down for the turn, not like back home.

We arrive about 8 and they say, “Tea or coffee?” Coffee, I tell them. For some reason, those tiny cups of sweet Turkish coffee don’t keep me up as much as the cups of strong black tea. They give me a little boost of energy, but I can usually sleep by midnight or one. In fact, I have noticed that I seem to sleep better after Turkish coffee.

But the woman decides to make tea first. So we have it, delicately scented and lightly sweetened, because she lets me add my own sugar. They tend to fill the cup halfway with sugar and then saturate it with tea. I don’t stir tea like that, and I can feel my teeth growing furry as I drink it. I don’t like very sweet drinks. But when Iraqi chai is done right, it is a delightful drink. They use black tea and add cardamom.

I drink my tea and turn down the cakes I’m being offered. Since this couple is elderly she doesn’t do a lot of baking, and these are generic Twinkies wrapped in plastic. I claim fullness, murmur about my diet. They shrug and let it go.

About an hour later, she notices me stifle a yawn and asks her husband to go make coffee. This is the one thing he can do in the kitchen, he tells us. I send Donn with him to learn. The coffee is exquisite–again made with cardamom. I have learned to make decent Turkish coffee, but I learn anew how far I still have to go to be a true master. Mistress. Mistress of Turkish Coffee. A title I could live with.

Now it’s 11 and we’re home but pretty wide awake. Tea AND coffee, all in the space of a 2 hour visit. I’m still tired from a white night on Friday and a long day on Saturday that involved a birthday party for 2 Iraqi women, mother and (grown) daughter, both good friends. That party started with cake and Mountain Dew served in crystal wine glasses, and ended up at Hometown Buffet which is one of those restaurants where you serve yourself from an enormous variety of dishes. They were surprised when I didn’t have more Coke or dessert. “It’s included in the price,” they assure me, but I point out that I’d already HAD dessert. Life may be short, but I prefer my dessert later or not at all.

This is Turkish coffee that I (remember, I the Mistress of Turkish coffee) made, served in cheap cups bought in Morocco. The tablecloth is from Mauritania. Picture by my friend Sheri.

Do you like Turkish coffee? What’s the latest you can drink it and be asleep by midnight?

Advertisements