On Saturday afternoon I braved the snow and headed over to Lund's, where a demonstrator had one of these machines and was profering samples and perky conversation. So I tried a little cup, and it was the worst cup of coffee I remember drinking in years and years. It was absolutely insipid, almost watery, and had none of the sense of active chemical process that characterizes good coffee for me. I couldn't even drink more than a few sips. Now, I spend my workdays drinking great quantities of pretty bad coffee from the Bunn machine without any particular gag-reflex issues, so believe me this was very bad coffee indeed. I asked the demonstrator if there were a way to adjust the strength of the brew and she said no, but they were planning on making the coffee pods available in different roasts which should account for that. Um, no. The roast per se was not the issue. I said nothing, but smiled with equal perkiness and found a place to dump the rest of my cup and moved on.
Maybe one problem is that I drink my coffee black, like the good Minnesotan I've become, and commercialized mass market American coffee assumes the addition of cream and sugar. But I doubt that explains all of it.
The reason I was at Lund's was to pick up some things to bring to my friend Bob Walser's annual December party that night, which is such a wonderful party that people look forward to it all year the way you might look forward to a holiday. This year Bob and his wife Julie didn't get around to sending out the invitation until only about a week in advance but most folks had the event in their general consciousness anyway for the first Saturday in December.
Bob brews great quantities of beer in advance of the party, and the guests bring a delicious assortment of food. People come and go from 8pm until at least 2am, so the food assortment changes over the course of the evening. Bob and Julie are very well connected to many, many local acoustic musicians, so this party is primarily a music party. There are competing groups of mostly string players (with the occasional squeezebox, and this year a set of Northumbrian pipes) spread throughout the various rooms of the house. This year in the Pub basement there were two separate groups of players in what were technically two rooms but without much in the way of barrier separating them. But folks didn't care, they just played on and had a good time.
The third floor of Bob's house is one large room, which was a separate studio apartment in an earlier incarnation. That room is the kids playroom, so the party is family friendly. It has to be, as Bob and Julie's twin boys Lolo and Smack live there as well. Lolo and Smack actually went to bed this year before the party ended; when they were four or so they stayed up half the night, happy and excited at their house being turned into a big circus ring for the night.
Most years a group of us winds up singing in one of the bedrooms. This year some folks insisted that we take over the living room instead, which would not have been my preference because of the competing string players in the kitchen but we sang for a long while anyway and had a grand old time. There are many folks I enjoy seeing at this party, including various members of my Cotswold Morris Side. (Bob is a founding member of the team, and both a dancer and musician.)
Things can get busy and crowded this month in Minnesota, and it can be a time of great annoyance. But I am always happy for this party, that marks the beginning of winter for me.
Now I want to learn to play the Northumbrian Smallpipes.