Mea cuppa

One of my superpowers is breaking things.

Now, I know that anyone can break anything with enough gumption and/or strength. At best, it is an inadvertent superpower; at worst, it is doom for the planet. I am not certain that I can not break paper.

I learned that I have this superpower the hard way: By claiming that I do not have it. I no longer remember what point I was trying to illustrate when I said 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 had 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, no one in the group knew what I was talking about. Each one’s experience with combing his or her hair with an unbreakable comb was only as described on the tools themselves. Bendy, yes. Twisty, uh-huh. Breaky? Just me.

I once broke a Livestrong bracelet. What was I trying to do with it? Put it on my wrist. It snapped and flew across the room.

A few weeks ago, 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 and, usually, common sense. 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 after all, very blandly. “Remove dish from oven.” It’s the single most exciting part of the cooking experience! Whatever the opposite of overkill is, that right there is an example.)

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 cookware in the sink …

(Did you know that not all Pyrex is the same? (Thanks, online world of information.) Corning divested itself of its consumer goods division 16 years ago and licensed the name “Pyrex” to other companies, some of which use a different formula from Corning’s classic recipe, and thus produce glassware that is sometimes not as heat-resistant as Corning’s original. Of course, “heat-resistant” was always something of the point to Pyrex, so this is just terrific. If you see a Pyrex product with the red logo “PYREX” in all caps, that product is one that was made by Corning with the original formula and is stronger. The other logos are the newer products, which are not knock-offs precisely, as Corning did grant those companies licenses, but they are not made following the same formula.)

… 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 (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 someone’s middle finger, but most were smaller. Oh, and steam.

So I break things. Things that were invented because they are less likely to break.

With great power comes great responsibility, so what am I doing making my morning coffee in a press? (A fine example of which, not my personal one, is seen above.)

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.

After two years of making coffee with one of these, I have broken two so far. Because that is what I do.

The WordPress Daily Prompt for December 4 asks, “If your furniture, appliances, and other inanimate objects at home had feelings and emotions, to which item would you owe the biggest apology?”

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