My Beloved Bodum

     To be honest, I never imagined myself becoming a coffee drinker.  My mom is a thé dévouée and my father is a straight-up Folgers-drinking firefighter.  While I always loved that distinct brewed coffee aroma, I found it unpalatable until I was about sixteen.
    The summer between my sophomore and junior years in high school I had the great and well-earned opportunity to take a ten-day tour of northern Italy.  God bless Mrs. Bennett and Mrs. Erd for putting up with the unfailing shenanigans of a group of sixteen-year-old high school students.  They were absolutely wonderful guides and chaperones, and thanks to them I was able to see some of the most beautiful places and taste the most delicious food (Buongiorno limoncello!) in the world.  This blog, if you haven’t noticed, is about my love for France however, not Italy so I should get to the point.  Mrs. Bennett and our travel agency did a fabulous job of arranging our accommodations throughout the trip and every morning we fueled up on a European-style breakfast before heading out on a day of sightseeing and photography. 

     I feel that American breakfasts come in two distinct breeds - skip and scarf.  According to my highly unscientific random sampling of people I know, I gather that there is a significant proportion of people in this country who make the conscious choice to ignore  the advice of nutritionists and their mothers alike and skip breakfast.  I have never fit into this category of creatures, and never will.  There is also the type of breakfast that is a legitimate meal.  This does not include any variety of pop-tart/pastry streudel/granola bar/carnation drink.  I suppose cereal can be included in this sort of breakfast, but even that is typically accompanied by a medium glass of orange juice (preferably fresh squeezed), some sliced fruit, and maybe something hot to drink.  Into this category also falls the myriad of other breakfast foods that Americans are accustomed to, including but not limited to, eggs, toast, waffles, pancakes, bacon, hash browns, and oatmeal.  From personal experience, the Americans I know who eat breakfast, really eat breakfast.  Seeing as I love breakfast, I always try to prepare myself for the day with a bowl of oatmeal, not instant, topped with fresh fruit, a few almonds, and a splash of soy milk.  Perhaps this sort of breakfast is as appealing to you as it is to me.  Let me tell you, if you are planning on spending any time in Italy or France, you are in for an awakening.
    Throughout my fabulous first experience abroad I found the breakfasts at our hotels to be the only thing leaving me unsatisfied.  In fact, breakfast was basically a few pieces of toast with jam, a small glass of orange juice, and very strong coffee.  Prior to this trip I had never even tasted coffee, but I suppose I coupled a “when in Rome” attitude with an attempt to be more mature and cultured.  The end result has been yet another gastronomic love affair.
    I returned from my European adventure ready to continue getting to know my new caffeinated friend.  During my first stay in France, I had forgotten the European style of serving coffee (i.e. I didn’t remember a demi-tasse being so small) and was quite dissatisfied when my très petit café crème failed to ward off cool ocean breezes at a cafe in L’Ile d’Oleron.  During my stay in Paris, however, I learned to appreciate a teeny cup of strong café when my host family introduced me to their French press. 
    Sometime on a lazy Saturday or Sunday afternoon one of my host brothers, Antoine or Benji, would heat up the kettle and break out the press and accompanying espresso cups.  If you are unfamiliar with a French press, it is a very simply designed device that brews strong coffee.  Basically there is a glass cylinder, that typically sits in some sort of cage for protection and easy handling, with a lid that stabilizes a plunger with a strainer on its end. You put the desired amount of coarsely ground beans in the bottom, pour just-off-the-boil water on top, steep, replace the lid, and push down the plunger (and the grounds with it) - très simple, non? Sharing an occasional pause-café with my host brothers was a great bonding experience and my anti-drip conversion was complete.
    The French do not actually call a French press, an “appuyer français,” but because it was reportedly designed by a Frenchman, they have rightfully taken the credit.  If you are interested in acquiring this simple device that may change your coffee-making life, I suggest you turn to Bodum. Here is a little excerpt from their website:

        “We combined the skills of these Normandy craftsmen with modern production, and the price became  affordable to the many people who loved the taste of the coffee brewed in this unique coffee maker, later known as the French press coffee brewer. Thanks to Bodum and thanks to the increasing need for better coffee, the French press coffee maker became one of the most popular coffeemakers in the world.”

    Bodum products are of the highest quality and these smart Danes have been making coffee makers since the mid twentieth century.  Since 1974 they have produced close to 100 million French presses!  I happen to own a Bodum press and I can personally attest that it scores high points on both the quality, functionality, and style scales.  Making coffee in the morning or afternoon could not be simpler and every time the result a smooth, strong brew.  So, in closing, while I absolutely adore my stylistically French manner of preparing coffee, I must admit that I retain a very American sense of portion size and enjoy my coffee in the biggest mug I own - no demi-tasse for me*, s’il vous plaît!

(*Or in the words of my little brother circa 1994, “...and don’t bring it to me in that little cup!”)

-One last thing... After writing this post I spoke with my darling French ‘sister’ Popi regarding my devotion to the French press, to which she replied, “Oh, hardly anyone I know uses that anymore, we all have a Nespresso!” Needless to say, I will remain faithful to my French press even if the French themselves have all but abandoned the cute little contraption in favor of a George Clooney-endorsed machine!

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Anonymous said...

Nespresso is's expensive environmentally wasteful though. Did you ever get an espresso machine?

Cindie said...

I remember you talking about your French Press at work, I may invest in one...I found a cheap coffee stand near my job but I wake up early enough to make my own, I'm just too lazy! But if I had a snazzy guy like this, I think it would inspire me to make the extra effort.
- Cindie

S. Shoemaker said...

@pandainparis - no I haven't found an espresso machine that I can afford

@Cindie - French presses are the way to go... I even have one that is inside of a travel mug, I'll find the link and tweet it to you!

del4yo said...

The original French press was , er, French, and called a Melior. Bodum bought la petite Melior and made it famous. I'm glad you like it!

what kind of coffee do you use here?

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