People will occasionally ask me where I got the title of my column – “Sip with Dusty.” It’s actually pretty simple. I enjoy good conversation and good friends, and sipping on a good cup of coffee is a great way to facilitate that. (Of course, sipping on something stronger in the evenings is good too, but we’ll let that go for now…)
For a long time, I didn’t like coffee. I used to make fun of people who said they couldn’t function in the mornings without it. I congratulated myself on not being addicted to caffeine or a steaming cup o’ Joe.
Now I can’t get enough.
Back when I was a young preacher boy, just learning about the real world, I tried to learn to like coffee, but never did get the taste for it. Many people find the smell of coffee brewing to be very pleasant – somehow I guess I expected it to taste like that delicious aroma smelled, but of course, it didn’t. I tried lightening it up with cream, and sweetening it with sugar, but it was no use. (We used to tease my mom about having a little coffee with her milk and sugar.) So for the next 15 years or so, I didn’t even try. Even staying up nights through graduate school couldn’t make me like it.
But when we were in Johnson City, Tennessee, around 1993-94, I was teaching at Milligan College and managing their campus radio station. The mornings were frequently cold and wet there in the mountains of East Tennessee, and so out of curiosity, I bought some of the “International Cafe” French Vanilla instant mix. It was VERY sweet and VERY flavored – one friend described it as a “cup of coffee with a scoop of vanilla ice cream melted in it” – but I discovered I enjoyed it.
From there, I gradually learned to enjoy more the taste of the coffee and needed less and less sweetener and flavoring. Now, 30 years later, sometimes I will have a coffee-flavored drink as a treat or a dessert in the evening, sometimes with a shot of Irish Cream or amaretto added in, but in the morning, I’ll just take it straight, thank you.
Are you a fan of Lonesome Dove? One of my favorite scenes in that famous story occurs when Gus is talking with Lori. She is disappointed and bitter because her boyfriend Jake, instead of taking her to San Francisco as he had promised, had instead abandoned her in the middle of nowhere. Old Gus is trying to share some wisdom with her and says that “the only way to live, in my opinion, is to learn to enjoy all the little things in life.” When she asks him for examples, he says, “Like a glass of cold buttermilk, or a sip of fine whiskey in the evening.” Then he adds with a smile, “Or the company of a feisty gentleman such as myself.”
Gus mentions buttermilk, but the principle is the same.
So, is there a perfect cup of coffee? Such a question is bound to start a big debate with some folks – three of our grown children have been professional baristas, and I know they have definite opinions on the subject – but for me, I think enjoying coffee has less to do with what’s in the cup, and more to do with who’s at the table.
Some of my favorite cups have been…
- On a cold morning at a Boy Scout campout near Tuscola, gathered around a warm campfire.
- Sitting with neighbors, looking at pictures of their grandkids.
- Having a cup after a church potluck and listening to folks just visit together.
- Studying the Bible with friends in a good Sunday School class as we sit and sip together.
Coffee is definitely best when shared with good friends, over good conversation. Come by the office sometime and let me pour you a cup.