One of my superpowers is breaking things. (I have others; they just have not yet been revealed to me.) I am not a physically strong individual. I just use what strength I possess ineptly.
Now, I know that anyone can break anything with enough gumption and/or strength. Give a man a big enough lever, and he can move the world, said Archimedes. Teach a man to swim and he can fish for a bicycle, said no one.
At best, my superpower is an inadvertent superpower; at worst, it is doom for the planet.
I am not certain that I can not shatter paper.
This superpower was discovered the hard way: when I was claiming that I do not have it. I no longer remember what point I was trying to illustrate when I said with my outdoors voice to a group, “Nothing’s unbreakable. Right? Who hasn’t broken a so-called ‘unbreakable’ comb?” Perhaps I was talking with a group of fancy people who don’t buy their combs at convenience stores or truck stops, but I had in fact lived through the experience of buying and later snapping in half a comb that had “unbreakable” written right on it. In. CAPITAL. Letters.
Like some of you reading this right now, no one in the group knew what I was talking about. Each person’s experience with combing his and/or her hair with an unbreakable comb was only as described on the tools themselves. Bendy, yes. Twisty, uh-huh. Shatter-y? No, just me.
I once broke a Livestrong bracelet. (Livestrong is a cancer research fundraising foundation that sells bright yellow rubber band bracelets that one can wear. Thick and strong, most people just roll them up their hand. They are supposed to have very little give.) What was I trying to do with it? Put it on my wrist like anyone else. The thing snapped and flew across the room.
Back in November, I was cooking. It happens. I was cooking something in a Pyrex pan in the oven, which is something I should not do. I have metal pans, common sense, and I am in a relationship with a girlfriend who is an excellent cook. I had a Pyrex pan in the oven, and when the dish was done, I removed it from the oven. (Most cookbooks describe this part, which is the most exciting piece of the entire cooking process after all, very blandly. “Remove dish from oven.” It’s the only thrilling part of the cooking experience, at least for the cook. Whatever the opposite of overkill is, that right there is an example. Underkill.)
I moved the food onto my plate and carried the Pyrex back into the kitchen. And then, because I do not think things through, I placed the thick glass hot-from-the-bowels-of-Hell cookware in the sink …
(Did you know that not all Pyrex is the same? [Why, thank you, online world of information.] Corning divested itself of its consumer goods division more than fifteen years ago and licensed the name “Pyrex” to other companies, some of which use a different formula from Corning’s classic recipe, and they sometimes produce glassware that is not as heat-resistant as Corning’s original. Of course, “heat-resistant” was always something of the entire point to anything called Pyrex, so this is just wonderful. If you see a Pyrex product with the red logo in all caps, like this: PYREX, that product is one that was made by Corning with the original formula and is stronger. It is also older, rarer, and no longer being manufactured. Buy it. The other logos are the newer products and are usually seen with lowercase letters; they are not exactly knock-offs, as Corning did indeed grant these companies licenses, but they are not made following the same formula. “The more you know …” ™)
… I placed the heat-resistant glassware in the sink and hit the faucet. In a split-second, I remembered that objects right out of a hot oven react violently to cold water and I twisted the faucet back off. One drop of water (this is no exaggeration) left the faucet. When it hit the Pyrex, my sink was suddenly filled with shards of glass. Some of the shards were as big as a finger, let’s say the angry universe’s middle finger, but most of the dozens of shards were smaller. Oh, and eye-scalding steam.
So I break things. Things that were invented with the raison d’être of being less likely to break.
With great power comes great responsibility, so what am I thinking with making my morning coffee in a press? (This column is a re-write of one that first appeared in December. It was called, “Mea cuppa.”People wrote in with good advice, which I have included below.)
The French press “is essentially open-pot coffee with a sexy method for separating the grounds from the brew. The pot is a narrow glass cylinder. A fine-meshed screen plunger fits tightly inside the cylinder; you put a fine-ground coffee in the cylinder, pour boiling water over it, and insert the plunger in the top of the cylinder without pushing it down. After about four minutes the coffee will be thoroughly steeped and you push the plunger through the coffee, clarifying it and forcing the grounds to the bottom of the pot. You serve the coffee directly from the cylinder. Be certain not to use too fine a grind unless you have an athlete or a weightlifter at the table; the plunger will be almost impossible to push down through the coffee.” This is from Kenneth Davids’ classic book, “Coffee: A Guide to Buying, Brewing, and Enjoying,” and my quote is from the 1981 edition. His more recent edition changes the ground to “coarse-to-medium,” the water from boiling to “just short of boiling,” and loses the weightlifter joke. Oh, and “sexy” is changed to “sophisticated.” Too bad.
He goes on, “The plunger pot was apparently developed in Italy during the 1930s, but found its true home in France after World War II, when it surged to prominence as a favored home-brewing method.” That is why, when I first saw one in a friend’s kitchen, I asked if the thing was a “French” press. I knew that much, I guess. I also asked where one turned it on. She didn’t stop laughing long enough to tell me. She knew enough not to tell me, because I break things.
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I do not remember at what age coffee infiltrated its way into my life. Not childhood, not high school. Like some other things, it changed my life from that first moment; unlike those other things, it did not alter the course of my life.
Several readers suggested getting a stainless steel coffee press. That is on the shopping list; my girlfriend and I have discovered that one of the chain retailers with the initials BB&B often has pretty good models on sale.
(We live in a land of malls and chains; the only “mom & pop” stores are opened simply so the local chamber of commerce can photograph itself cutting a ribbon with a giant pair of scissors. In my hands, those scissors would break into two large knives. After the ribbon is cut and photos taken, the mom & pop stores are immediately shuttered by the mortgage lender, leaving the chains and mall stores safe from competition.)
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The WordPress Daily Prompt for March 28 asks, “Tell us about your favorite meal, either to eat or to prepare. Does it just taste great, or does it have other associations?”
Our friend Judy asks today (July 14, 2015), “In the absence of a Daily Prompt, I am declaring my own prompt and inviting anyone who reads this to follow along and post on yesterday’s prompt page, as I am. The subject is Coffee!!” Yes! Exclamation points!