Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Tradition vs. Convenience

Cuban coffee flows through my veins.  It's true! I swear!

When I moved away from Miami, I left my daily cafecito in the mid-afternoon.  That little pick me up that I totally took for granted -- gone! I still remember walking the mall on a freezing February afternoon and starting to sniff the air.  "Cafe!" I exclaimed to Mi Gringito. We happened to be walking past one of those gourmet coffee places and that smell could not be mistaken; the price on the other hand left a bad taste in my mouth.  $3.00 for a shot of espresso? Seriously? Some Hispanic in the Northeast is giggling his way to the bank at this very moment! I voiced my frustrations to Mami later that night during our daily text conversation.

Mami remedied this almost instantly by sending me a traditional cafetera in one of her care packages. She said that whenever I got the craving, I could just brew some myself. Awesome.  They sell espresso in the grocery stores (more on that later) so I didn't have to rely on care packages for that.

But here's the thing: I didn't learn to make cafe with one of those doohickeys...

We had a dual coffee maker for years in our house.  One side made American coffee and the other side made Espresso.  I can remember jumping for joy when it was my turn to make the cafe for my Abuelo -- heck, I even have a nice burn scar as almost like a trophy on my left hand for my efforts.

But I digress.

I've had this metal contraption in my possession for about a year and a half now and I think I've made espresso in it about five whole times.  Me. The person who in my early twenties would drink an entire colada at six in the morning so that I would have that peppy and perky smile at work.  Me. The person who thinks nothing of drinking a shot before bed because its an excellent night cap. Me. The person that as soon as I am picked up at the airport in Miami demands to be taken to the nearest cafeteria for a shot. What can I say? Soy vaga.

Anyhoo. My point is that just because I have certain tools does not mean I will use them.

My little story takes a bit of turn, though.

Mi Gringito loves caffeine.  Mi Gringito loves Dunkin' Donuts Coffee. He's known so well at the store by his job, that they only have to hear his voice to know his order: "Extra Large Hot, Extra Mocha, Extra Caramel with Skim only and a Turbo shot."

Mi Gringito is going to make us go broke with his consumption. I honestly think that he was absent from school on the day the vocabulary word was moderation.

He has a Dunkin' Donuts Card that has automatic replenishment so that he can indulge in his caffeine-laced beverage when he gets the craving. I don't care.  I was the one who got him the card and set up the account.  It makes my life easier and he's happy. The only problem, however, is this moderation thing that he knows nothing of. Once his card reaches a certain balance, it is set to replenish. I'm cool with that. I'm not cool with it replenishing three times in one week.

I had to do an intervention. I asked my loving husband what he got out of all that coffee? He mentioned that it tasted good and that it kept him energized and focused at work.  I asked him if he thought that maybe some espresso could have the same effect.  After all, he was paying and additional $1 (!!!) to add a shot to his coffee.  He responded, "Perhaps."

So last week I began an experiment. I wake up at 5am with him on the mornings he works anyway so why don't I use that awake time to productively make him his morning coffee (or fuel, like I like to call it)?

I used the cafetera every morning last week, but I don't know how I feel about it. It doesn't fit on my burner so I had to buy a metal thing to place under it and well, like I said earlier, I am vaga! What was I to do? Mi Gringito loves his morning cafe con leche and he has barely used his DD Card since I began the experiment. Heck, on the first morning he said, "Who needs Dunkin' Donuts?" as he gulped down the entire beverage in seconds.

Well, I did what any modern Cubanita might do: I went shopping for an espresso machine!

Now, I don't know if it's memory or nostalgia, but I swear that these machines were almost dirt cheap in Miami -- so you can imagine the hard time I was having when the least expensive I've come across is about $100. I was determined, though, and during yesterday's grocery run at Wal-Mart, I decided to check out the small appliance section.  I found a pretty decent machine made by Mr. Coffee for about $37. Not bad, if you ask me.

Today I made Mi Gringito his cafe con leche without even breaking a sweat. He even commented on how it tasted even better than the previous times (now I think he's just trying to sweeten me up!). So what if it isn't the traditional way on top of a stove? To me, this is the tradition: it was how I was taught and I'm not afraid of messing it up.

Now on to the subject of the actual espresso. This is something that kills me when I do groceries.  I mean seriously, how much is a cube of cafe in the stores in Miami? A little piece of me dies when I am paying nearly $4 for something I know is about $2 at Sedano's!

I went shopping the other day and was looking for some espresso and I get to the coffee aisle.  Not only do I have only three brands to choose from, they are all obscenely expensive in my opinion. I opted for the least expensive brand instead of going for what was tried and true.  I have never seen this brand before, but being called Cafe Caribe, it has to be good...right? Meh. When I got home, I Google'd the brand and came across this review. After brewing it, I can definitely agree with the author. Oh well.  Lesson learned. On this week's grocery trip, Mi Gringito walked to the coffee section and said, "Hey Babe...Pilon." Let's just say that I paid the $4 happily.

So, readers, I have two questions for you this time around: 1) What is better, tradition or convenience? and 2) Is it worth saving a few pennies if the product is not the same quality?

1 comment:

  1. LOVE LOVE LOVE your blog...and to answer your question:
    You make your own traditions! You take the classic Cuban cafecito tradition from your home growing up and tweak it to work for you in BFE- isn't that what starting a new family is about?! One day when you have kids they will look back at their cafe con leche memories in the same light you see the ones from home- with a nostalgia that can't be replaced!

    And girl, pay the $4 for Pilon! LOL