12 May 2017

Morning rituals and the ritualistic item of importance.

A long time ago I put up a photo of my favourite mug - only it really should have a more elegant name. 'Mug' is a blunt and prosaic word, almost ugly. Difficult to find another though. Goblet? Chalice? Neither is quite right.

Whatever it is called this is the perfect vessel from which to drink to drink hot beverages. I wrote to some length about it thus:-

It's a long time since I wrote in praise of the beverage that makes the waking up moment glorious, keeps me alert through the day and creates the centre-piece for many a good discussion. To fully enjoy this alchemical elixir the ritual is important and the vessel from which it is to be enjoyed is vital to the fulfillment of the moment. This morning I wavered downstairs to begin the revivification process only to find there was no mug. At the very heart of the ceremony is its special shape, discovered after years of seeking; the perfect form. There they lay in the dish washer, all unwashed. Not so serious some might think, but it is essential to observe all form and intent to arrive at the necessary magic needed to co-ordinate my limbs and focus my brain after a heavy night. Part of that form is the opening of the cupboard door onto a phalanx of pure green china. To have to remove one from the sullied ranks is - just not the same. It won't do. There are other mugs, of course there are. The nice orange Penguin mugs with novel titles on them. I could have started the day with 'Brave New World.' Quite suitable. There is the recent addition created to promote the PBFA with mice on it (?) and the words 'The Book Fair Mug' (which I feel is rather a double entendre but there we are.)

They have one major fault in common. Straight sides. Look at the photograph. Observe the curvaceous shape. This is more than mere decoration. It is ergonometric, pleasing to fold ones fingers around on a chilly day, sensual, easy to clutch on a shaky morning or during one of life's troubling moments. It also keeps the coffee at exactly the right temperature. Note the wider mouth from which one can take the first sips; then the restriction in diameter which ensures that the lower bulb of liquid stays hot for later quaffing. Robust and serviceable without being crassly earthern (I have been given coffee in hand-thrown pots with a surface like rough sandpaper, so heavy I could hardly lift it to my lips and so thick the mouth had to open uncomfortably wide with a diameter so large that all heat is lost immediately.. a travesty of an experience.)

Some daily routines are pure ritual and my first coffee of the day is of huge importance. The movements could, and possibly should, be written in a Grimoire. Kettle half-filled with fresh water (OK OK tap sn't exactly fresh but let's not get silly here) and put to boil. Cafetière prepared, fresh grounds added. Cupboard door opened and one gleaming green shape selected to be placed ready on the tray. Boiling water onto grounds, a short moment for settling and infusing (not too long or it loses heat) then the rich dark brew poured into the mug until 2 cm of whiteness remains around the dark inner circle. Back upstairs in bed, settle pillows, open book, reach for mug, hold under nose for the full aroma, inhale deeply, cradle briefly. Sip.

Tea is best taken from fine bone china. Cocoa - well this versatile vessel is wonderful for cocoa too, the dark cocoa (must be strong) contrasting with the gleaming white of the inner glaze.

Not to get too Proustian about it, my most memorable coffee ever was in 1967 taken from a huge French breakfast bowl at 4.30am in Dieppe after a terrible crossing endured without Qwells (because I had no idea I might suffer that way!) It had left me empty and virgin for my first real French coffee with croissant and someone to teach me the pleasure of dunking.

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