In our household we could run out of oil, rice, or meat, but we will never run out of coffee. It is such a staple that we have bought it in several different forms and have at least three devices to producing the drink in varieties that would rival your local coffee shop.It would be hard for me to imagine a single day where we didn’t have at least one cup of joe.
Despite our evident love for coffee, you will be hard-pressed to find me making Turkish or Arabic coffee. I never truly developed a liking for it, regardless of it being commonly present at all our family gatherings. I’ve only ever had it twice or three times out of sheer necessity- as to not offend hosts who had opened their homes for us during a summer training while in college.
In fact, I find the process too tedious in return for such small quantities, that I have just flat out refused to learn how to make it. Which of course has led to a longstanding discussion with my mother about how I should get over my dislike and put a pot on the stove. All in the spirit of being a good hostess.
It started long before I was engaged or even thinking of getting married.
Whenever we would have guests over, the rakwe would come out signifying that in just a few minutes, the whole kitchen would be full of that dense aroma and that I needed to help in the preparation and serving.
My mother would implore me to come and stand by the stove and learn the proper way of making coffee, but I could never seem to grasp the concept and she always had plenty of comments:
“You’ve put too much water!”
“You’ve put too little water!”
“The pot is too big”
“The pot is too small”
“You didn’t let the water boil properly before you put the coffee in.”
“You stirred it too much and now it won’t have the layer on top.”
“This is too sweet and our guests like it more bitter (or vice versa)”
And if none of the above comments were issued, it was probably because I let the pot boil for way too long and ended up with a major spill that resulted in me scrubbing the stove clean. Needless to say, at some point, I simply stuck to serving, so we put it on the back burner for a while.
It came up once again as Ahmad’s parents were planning to visit us for the very first time and formally ask for my hand in marriage. For weeks, the only concern was that I should be the one to prepare the coffee, as this is deeply rooted in our tradition and proceedings for these kinds of visits.
As it turned out, my in-laws favor tea- a beverage I have no problem brewing. I would say I passed that test with flying colors.
Eventually, I ended up buying coffee pots and small cups for the house just in case someone would randomly request them. All of course while I kept my fingers crossed that this wouldn’t be the case.
And it wasn’t until one of my great-uncles came to congratulate us on the house. I didn’t even have the coffee in stock and had to rely on my mother bringing some with her. He is very traditional so offering him any other beverage was not going to do the trick.
The last thing I wanted was to show our guests that I needed help from my mom, who was also involved in that visit, because I’m a grown up with my own house who can execute some pretty complicated dishes. So what’s a pot of coffee going to take?
I was very, very confused, rushing in and out of the kitchen to check and stir, and add all the ingredients at the right time. And somehow, I still did something wrong and gave them something that was barely drinkable. But maybe because they’re really nice people, they drank it anyway without a word.
The only other time, I tried persuading the visiting auntie to change her mind- but she wouldn’t budge. Not even when I tried offering her the best of our Sri Lankan tea collection. So I headed into the kitchen begrudgingly and got the water boiling. But this time, I refused to give anyone something that wasn’t of a good quality, so I called in for some supervision. Better than putting out a sloppy disaster. This time it was marginally better, but I wonder how long it will take me to get proficient at it.
So unless someone can direct me to a foolproof and easy way of making Turkish coffee, I’ll be avoiding it. I really don’t want to spend the rest of the evening scrubbing coffee off my stove top. Or even worse, being a bad hostess.