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Crookston Times - Crookston, MN
  • Christopherson column: Priorities change and, suddenly, ground coffee will do just fine

  • Who has the time and the motivation to grind beans?
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  • They say that when you get older your priorities change. Many people who aren't quite "older" yet and still think of themselves as quite young probably dispute that notion, and insist that they're always going to be in with what's hip, cool and trendy.
    For parents, their kids become the top priority, at least for a couple decades, give or take a few years. Money, unfortunately or not, is always a priority, but maybe instead of going on exotic vacations or buying fast cars, we focus our financial earnings on things like keeping the kitchen stocked with food, buying youth hockey equipment, and saving what we can for the kids' college educations.
    My priorities have changed more than a little bit, too, and it kind of hit home the other night as I stood in our kitchen. Before we venture off to bed I always like to get the coffee maker ready to brew first thing the next morning, so all I have to do when I wearily stumble into the dark kitchen is press a button to get that glorious pot of boundless energy brewing.
    I reached for the little Tupperware container on the counter that contains the coffee grounds and realized it didn't contain enough to make a full pot. So I opened the freezer, where we keep bags of Starbucks or Caribou coffee, and found a bag of each. I grabbed the closest one and gave it a squeeze. There were beans inside. I tossed it back and grabbed the second bag. Another squeeze of the bumpy bag confirmed similar contents. I tossed that bag back inside, too, and stood their for a moment as the zero degree air hit my face.
    Then, a mini-epiphany. I got down on my knees, pulled out three baskets from near the bottom of the freezer and started digging around. I pulled out bags of french fries, frozen concentrate juice, some freezer-burned Popsicles and bags of sliced tomatoes and other vegetables from the previous summer that we swore we'd eat eventually if we froze them. I grabbed several variations of blue-ice packs for when the boys get hurt and swelling needs to be stopped. I grabbed a bag of bagels, and a loaf of bread, and piled them with the rest of the growing pile on the kitchen floor, and then I started to get frustrated, and second-guess myself.
    Maybe I'd thrown it away, I started to tell myself. Maybe my wife had thrown it away. Maybe we'd somehow used it all, although that didn't seem possible.
    There was still hope, however. I reached way toward the back of the bottom freezer basket and removed a bunch of sliced up, cinnamon-seasoned apples that had been there since the mesozoic era...and there it was.
    "Yes!" I quietly yet excitedly told myself in triumph, as I made my arm as long as possible in order to reach the half-full bag of coffee.
    Page 2 of 2 - Coffee grounds, that is...as in, it didn't contain beans that I would have to grind, which would have meant I had to take two steps to my left, open a cupboard, take out the coffee grinder and spend about two minutes grinding up enough beans to refill that little Tupperware container on the counter.
    It was awful coffee. We'd gotten it as a gift, possibly, a long time ago; maybe it was part of some coffee-themed gift basket we'd won in a silent auction at some fund-raiser. It was "chocolate-mocha" flavor, and in looking at the grounds, you'd swear that someone simply sprinkled cocoa powder in with the beans. It left a sludge at the bottom of a coffee cup, and seemed to gum up the coffee maker, too. The taste? Tragically bad.
    And, yet, there I was, practically jubilant that I'd found it, and wouldn't have to grind coffee.
    It wasn't always like this, of course. That bag of coffee may have tasted bad, but it was the fact that it was grounds that made me sentence it to a dark, frozen, lonely existence under some seasoned apples that would maybe or maybe not one day be baked in a pie.
    Ground coffee? That's what Wilford Brimley would drink, I once figured. For true, ultimate flavor, coffee must be ground from beans and brewed promptly to achieve the highest potential of freshness.
    But now, as I stood there in the kitchen excitedly dumping those chocolate-mocha, powdery grounds into the coffee maker, I couldn't have cared less. The coffee had caffeine, which in a few short hours would prove far more important than its taste, and I was saving myself two minutes of grinding, time I could spend checking work email on my phone. Changing priorities, indeed.
    But I can only speak for myself. Grounds or beans, my wife simply despised that bag of coffee from the moment it first came in contact with her taste buds a couple years ago. After one pot, I'd tossed it toward the bottom of the freezer and opened another bag.
    So there she came, into the kitchen, the next morning. With an olfactory sense constantly on steroids, she stopped dead in her tracks and sniffed aggressively. "Is that the chocolate crap?!" she said.
    Then, proving her priorities remain a little more intact than mine, she ground up some Starbucks beans and conjured us up a couple of killer double-shot cappuccinos.
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