Coffee with Miriam

Last May 2008, I attended a workshop on narrative reporting in Davao held by my group, MindaNews. We had two really great teachers — Prof. Janet E. Steele of George Washington University and Andreas Harsono of Jakarta. I enjoyed the workshop a lot despite the hectic schedule, lots and lots of readings, and tons of assignment that I never felt so toxic in my life. It was beating deadlines more than I experienced as a reporter, even when I was still beating daily deadlines as a news reporter in Manila.

Here’s one of the writing assignments under Mr. Harsono, which shows one reason why I enjoy coffee more, more than the great taste and aroma we’re getting from freshly roasted specialty grade coffee:

My wife and I, we wake up between 6 and 7 o’clock, when enough of the morning light has pierced through the jalousie windows, situated on our left and facing northeast, forming shadows of straight, parallel lines on the wall toward our right. Any time later and the light becomes too bright, hitting us in bed.

Then we perform our “conjugal duties,” yes, in these early mornings. This early morning ritual, sorry to disappoint you, is nothing but making the bed, which is best done with two pairs of hands. In tucking the mosquito net away, she grabs both ends on her side of the bed, and I grab both on mine, which is the side nearer the window. Then we’d fold it as neat as soldiers would do to a flag, and place it in a “baul” (wooden chest) with okir carvings and mother-of-pearl inlays made by the artisans of Tugaya. The bed sheet, with garters on all corners, together we’d each grab the corner on the head side, air it, then stretch the fabric from opposite sides simultaneously, first on the sides, then on both ends, tucking it neatly until all the creases are gone.

Now that I’m here in Davao, I think of my wife who has to do it all alone. I have difficulty doing it by my lonesome, for it’s not easy handling the mosquito net and the bed sheet of a king-sized bed. But I’m still wondering how she can do it well.

When the bed is made, she’d either boot her computer to check emails, or ride her stationary bike, which probably helps her keep slim and sexy after all these years, 20 years after we got married. But actually, it’s more of a genetic anomaly, because all her sisters and cousins are on the “healthy” side, and she doesn’t really follow a healthy diet and lifestyle her patients believe she does. But at least she can tell her patients, the women especially, that if they want a body like hers, they really need to exercise.

At this time, I come down to make coffee.

First I place 2 cups of water into the electric kettle. While waiting for it to boil, I grind my coffee beans. I usually have at least two types of coffee beans I roasted days earlier, using green beans from the world’s best coffee growing regions, coffees like Java Pancoer, Guatemala Huehuetanango, Ethiopia Yirgacheffe, or my all-time favorite, any of the Yemen Mokhas. Then I prepare the saucers, the teaspoons and sugar on the table. No cream, please. Then I’d pour the grinds into the Aeropress, followed by hot water, stir for about 15 seconds, then press to force the water through the paper filter. Then I’d dilute the coffee concentrate with the remaining hot water, to make Café Americano for two.

It’s time to ring the bell above the breakfast counter, a signal for my wife to come down for coffee.

Breakfast, you see, is usually the only meal where we can eat on the same table together, because she seldom comes home for lunch and dinner with her patient load at the clinic and at the hospital. It is also the time of day when we talk the longest, spending up to an hour on the table, just Miriam and I, talking about any topic under the sun, as it was when we first dated many years ago.


My classmates did enjoy this piece, and wanted to send me home right away. :-) My teacher had a few suggestions: 1) why not select one particular morning, instead of a generic one, and still describe the usual early morning ritual; 2) why no dialogue in quotes, just descriptions; 3) why no description of the smell of the bed, and especially of the coffee! He’s from Java, after all.


9 Responses to “Coffee with Miriam”

  1. Mindanao Bob on December 18th, 2008 1:09 pm

    Ngay – Maayong hapon. Nice article, I enjoyed reading it. I remember, you visited my house during the time you were in Davao for that class. I am waiting for your return to Davao… don’t forget to bring some beans with you when you come! :lol:

  2. Bobby on December 18th, 2008 2:11 pm

    ngay, when you get your grinder, i’ll send you some beans!

  3. Mindanao Bob on December 18th, 2008 5:54 pm

    Ha ha… maybe if I get a grinder, you will be my coffee supplier! :lol:

  4. Benson on December 18th, 2008 9:11 pm

    Bob, musta imong “behmor”?

  5. Bobby on December 18th, 2008 11:16 pm

    My “Behmor” with an Imarflex tag? Hahaha! The rotisserie motor got busted, so I replaced it. The new motor died again. My repairman fixed the original motor, and so it worked again. Then the toaster oven stopped working again, no power at all. Technician found a broken wire, connected and sodlered it, and voila! It’s now perfectly working again. :-)

  6. Benson on December 19th, 2008 8:20 pm

    Nag add ka ug extra heating element?

  7. Bobby on December 19th, 2008 8:34 pm

    Not anymore. I just had the electronics tweaked. Like, I disabled the thermometer sensor, so it won’t cycle on&off anymore, it’s full power all the time. Controlling the temp is now just turning off 1 or both heating elements.

  8. Benson on December 19th, 2008 10:29 pm

    do you turn off 1 heating element after 1st crack?

  9. Bobby on December 19th, 2008 11:05 pm

    Nah, they’re always on. I was doing the on-off thingie only when I roasted the Gesha, coz I read this bean needs lower temp in the early part of the roast.

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