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Saturday, September 13, 2003


cerro gordo means fat hill

many moons ago, when blogger was young and i had just started bccy, there was a devastating server crash. many posts were forever lost, including my personal recipe for ciabatta and the famed cerro gordo turkey chile.

this was a recipe given to me by the late, dearly dearly missed poet and zen teacher philip whalen (and here), whose old zendo in fanta se was in fact on cerro gordo road. everyone who eats it immediately declares it the best chile ever.

long-time readers remember that whalen was the first person to serve me peets coffee in a french press. thus in a certain way he is the father of this site, and possibly the most influential person in my entire life.

it's a great dish, including turkey, fresh corn, pozole, zucchini, beans, roasted tomatoes, sage, mexican oregano, red onion, garlic, fresh toasted and ground cumin, cinnamon, chimayo chili, ancho chili, and chipotle chili.

i'm making this today, since it's a weird mix of wet and dry, hot and cold, sunny and dark. really, i need to post the recipe again, but it's one of things that doesn't have figures.

you kinda have to put it together with your heart. . .

posted by fortune elkins | 12:00 PM | top | link to this |


Friday, September 12, 2003


congressmen beg powell to rejoin i.c.o.

actually, the headline on this piece is about the growing problem in latin america of desperate coffee farmers turning to cultivating illegal drugs.

apparently, 20% of former coffee land in colombia has now been converted to coca production for cocaine, and that drug is headed towards our streets and communities.

but the real news is that some visionary members of congress sent a letter to the mostly-invisible-these-days sec. of state colin powell to urge him to support the effort to re-join the i.c.o.

long-time readers know that this has been a pet project of bccy for a while.

why should the average coffee lover care about what seems like arcane regulations and obscure trade groups far away?

because the on-going world-price depression known as the coffee crisis is a direct threat to consumers.

how is this so? not only because of these questions of illegal drugs, and the illegal immigration the crisis causes as displaced coffee workers seek work in the north.

but most simply: the premium, gourmet, specialty coffee -- the kind you enjoy from starbucks, peets, gillies, what have you -- is frankly endangered by the crisis.

the kind of coffee we love is expensive to nurture. it needs a lot of hand-love and careful processing. it costs about US$0.90 a pound to grow; but as of yesterday coffee was in general selling for just US$0.70.

"quality begets price begets quality," sez a friend of mine in the coffee industry. and he's right. without a good price, the quality of coffee will continue to decline.

after 3 years of such a price differential -- and worse -- what farmer can stay in business, much less work to improve the quality of his crop? thus the smaller farmers who guard some of the most special and unique coffee types really have to throw in the towel, or offer a lesser quality product.

it's possible we could lose some of our most-prized, highest-quality origins if something doesn't change soon. or almost as bad, they will become amazingly expensive and difficult to obtain.

when good coffee costs upwards of US$15 a pound, and bad coffee costs a few dimes, what do you think will surround us? who benefits from a sea of ultra-cheap, bad-tasting coffee?

it isn't the consumer -- notice as the crisis has continued, and prices have fallen, even the so-called better quality supermarket can brand x coffees have risen in price.

are consumers benefitting from price reductions? no waaay. . .will consumers benefit when a pound of good coffee costs as much as a better wine? when all good coffees cost what kona does now?

coffee is as worthy a beverage as wine, no doubt, but i can't imagine most specialty coffee lovers paying iron horse prices for their beloved bean.

somewhere there in the middle's a situation whereby both farmers and consumers can get their hands on a fair price, one that encourages and rewards farmers without giving coffee lovers sticker shock. but this current road won't lead us there!

it's true too many people are now in the coffee business. we have to help some people transition out of coffee in a way that doesn't destroy their social fabric.

that's why coffeekids' programs exist; they're great, and they work.

we have to do several things simultaneously to end this crisis. we have to drink more specialty coffee -- that includes more organic, fair-trade, bird-friendly coffees -- and we have to politely encourage others to do so by our own example.

we have to support coffeekids and other coffee-related charitities to alleviate the current human misery.

we have to get trash coffee off the market. this low-grade, low-quality stuff helps depress prices.

a great way to improve coffee quality is to support the new coffee purity regulations supported by our friends at the scaa.

americans deserve to drink only the highest-quality coffees! and the u.s.a. must re-join the i.c.o. part of re-joining the i.c.o. is to adopt these new purity rules.

finally, we must support the oxfam initiative to destroy excess coffee stocks.

most of these are long-term initiatives. right now, i encourage everyone just to make themselves another pot. . . and enjoy. . .

posted by fortune elkins | 11:20 AM | top | link to this |


Thursday, September 11, 2003


2nd anniversary

why is this still so very hard?

on another beautiful day -- the hudson shining steel-gray, the cute l'il tugs chugging up the current, a wedgewood blue sky edged with wispy clouds of purest snow -- and i just can't bear it.

i could describe, as i have, the 25 large floral wreaths to the fdny, the police, the innocents murdered by osama bin laden. i could talk about the solemnity of the officers descending down the ramp in formation to the bottom of the pit.

or the tourists, who are at least respectful this year. the snipers on the corner of every building. drums galore and bagpipes skirling. bells. names.

somber announcements at 8:46am, 9:03am, 9:59am, 10:03am, 10:28am. we are asked to be silent at these times, although our tongues are bruised from wrestling back our questions, the things we are no longer allowed to say.

since i am now adept at typing through tears, i could in fact post at great length on this morning.

but those of us who work everyday at ground zero have a different attitude than the fake reverential tone of the newscasters. those towers are marked on our hearts with fire and they smoulder quietly everyday.

i mostly think of when i used to have a latte in the afternoons outside by the old fountain. my, it was ugly, that fountainhead.

i can remember all the other people i commonly saw there, most of whom were entirely unknown to me.

at the time they resembled nothing more than generic business people, messengers, mailroom boys, insurance clerks and office bettys, a mobile background in gray and blue for the splashing water in the great windy concrete cheerlessness.

and then those who worked at the shops -- the women at the coffee cart, the korean lady at the sandwich shop, the snooty clerk at the coach store, the sweet old man who sliced turkey at fine & schapiro, the only helpful clerk at the info desk at the bookstore.

who were they? what is wrong with me that i never learned their names? how could i have been so stupid as to let them remain anonymous to me?

why did i think they were merely window dressing? how could i have treated them in that way?

the kaddish that comes to my mind is ginsberg's, for his mother:

"it leaps about me, as i go out and walk the street, look back over my shoulder . . . . the battlements of window office buildings shouldering each other high, under a cloud, tall as the sky in an instant -- and the sky above -- an old blue place."

previous anniversary and list of complete bccy 9-11 coverage here.

posted by fortune elkins | 6:51 AM | top | link to this |


Wednesday, September 10, 2003


interesting new coffee website

it's the women in coffee website, formally called the women's international coffee alliance (wica).

you'll find it at womenincoffee.org. a handsome site for modern browsers -- if i do say so myself -- you can learn there about women's initiatives to alleviate the coffee crisis.

and also, you can discover great opportunities to travel "to origin." this is a coffee trade term for visiting the regions where coffee is grown.

the group will be giving great tours of coffee farms where you can meet the hard-working, sweet people who actually grow and make your daily coffee possible. they bring a yoga teacher along too!

and the women at origin last trip did yoga with everyone, i'm told. isn't that awesome? i would love myself to go on the january tour.

i think personally it's high time i went to origin. . .

anyway, women in coffee will very shortly have a listserv set up you can join and keep abreast of developments.

the site is also extremely interesting for the piece about the famed erna knutsen, "the mother of specialty coffee."

can you believe she was once a well-known runway model? today she's more beautiful than ever!

what an inspirational figure for all of us skirts who love coffee and the relationships it helps us build. . . with family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, and the farmers far away.

and -- we here at bccy have to say it's about time -- the l.a. times runs its story about the scaa's c-member event and our american heroine, the best barista in the u.s.a., heather perry of coffee klatch in san dimas.

finally, everyone knows i love the da vinci syrup people. love 'em love 'em love 'em. so here's a big head-standing thank you to them for sending me a couple of bottles of sugar-free french vanilla. . .

posted by fortune elkins | 8:27 AM | top | link to this |


Tuesday, September 09, 2003


don't get a rise

and today finds an amusing article discussing that dark-chocolate-lowers-blood-pressure thing as reported last month in jama.

we here at bccy have been talking about this stuff for what? more than 3 years now? as long- time readers know. eat your 3 oz. pure dark chocolate (no lecithin or other adulterants please!) bar in bits throughout the day.

this is good news, i think: in the past i've been advising eating 1.5 oz of pure dark chocolate a day, but this study used an entire european-sized bar. at least you know how much it takes!

and i find woody harrelson's giant yoga class amusing. . .

posted by fortune elkins | 11:10 AM | top | link to this |


Monday, September 08, 2003


just shut up and eat your coffee film

some things in life just make ya wanna weep. with the success of the little dissolvable breath-mint starch film squares, your friendly local food chemists have uncorked their 3rd eyeballs, mutant brains, and horny little mits to create. . .you guessed it:

a little dissolvable caffeinated coffee starch film square in various disgusting sounding flavors.

to my mind this dwarfs the usual news that our friends at that quality food provider, mcdonalds, intend to expand their mccafe coffee bars. does this even require my comment?

but what's really upsetting is the e.u. chocolate politics problem (log on your own self in and think of bruce: saute, wednesday). i've written about this before.

the italians tried to have this regulation overturned and lost. what is the point of the e.u. if it's just going to drown all of europe's finest traditions in the mediterrean?

the point should be to let all of europe's treasures move freely through the world just as they are and trounce the trashy american no-quality crap that's foisted on the planet against its will. . . europe should compete, not cave.

only that will force both european and american products to improve! europe has to display that it is possible to have a human and enjoyable way of life that is also practical and affordable.

otherwise they might as well apply to be the 52nd state right now, because when it comes to racing to the bottom, no one beats the american corporate beancounter. resistance will be futile. they will be assimulated.

posted by fortune elkins | 11:19 AM | top | link to this |


Sunday, September 07, 2003


1, 2, 3, 4

that's the name of the home-roast espresso blend altie and scaa charter c-member jim schulman sent me to try.

actually he sent me 3 little bundles: 1 for don schoenholdt of gillies to cup, and another that i intend to give to colombian coffee federation taster patrick spillman tomorrow. then jim will get the real rundown.

i haven't tried this as a french press coffee yet. but a quick cup with 3 "cups" and several espressos, as well as a macchiato test, give me my own personal taste results:

this dark-medium-dark roast coffee, showing patches of oil, is pungent, full, with an intense cardomom fragrance, as well as assertive dutch bitter cocoa and smoky flavors. the body is buttery and extra-thick.

quite generous crema at 4, 5, and 6 days old. it possesses a truly long and juicy finish. plus, like the black cat blend made by fellow chicagoan doug zell, schulman's blend blankets the tongue.

really, mine was the most amazing milk chocolate color for a good 30 minutes after the last swallow. this is almost always the sign of a rockin' thang. . .

posted by fortune elkins | 1:07 PM | top | link to this |

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