It’s mid-October and Gia is in town. Gia, like the rest of the world, drinks coffee. I, like the one person alive that time forgot, don’t. My parents were visiting the week before Gia came. They are also coffee drinkers. They bought an Italian coffee maker and coffee in a can for their breakfasts. It is this machine that Gia now wants to use to get her morning joe. She’s never used this kind of machine before. I’ve never made a cup of coffee in my life.
Deceptively simple, this contraption. Two halves. No moving parts. I seem to remember my father saying something about putting the coffee grounds in one half and water in the other, then setting it to boil on the stove.
So we try that. I put the water in the top and the coffee in the bottom. I turn on the gas tank outside and set the flame alight. I tell Gia: And now we’ll have coffee!
Except we don’t have coffee. We have boiling water that’s tinged with dirty flecks of brown. Gia and I stare into the top of the machine. This is not coffee, we say. We boil it a little longer. No coffee. We boil it some more and the water starts to evaporate s we add more. Still, no coffee.
This is war.
The breakfast of champions:
Leftover pizza, bucaneve, and slices of prune crostata. Add a glass of acqua frizzante and I’m set. But Gia needs the Morning Giuseppe, so we try again. It’s Gia’s idea to put the coffee grounds and the water in the same chamber, so we do that. We set it to boil. When we open the lid, the liquid inside is brown. I’d be no judge of whether or not it’s coffee – all tastes like turpentine to me – so Gia goes for it. Is it coffee? I ask. She grimaces. It’s not coffee.
We cut our losses. We ballet dance on the seashore:
We take a bus to Gaeta:
We try the coffee again. The Day Two method seemed to be the ticket, so the coffee and the water go back into the same compartment and we boil. This time, for some reason, what escapes from the steam valve appears to be coffee fumes. Gia tests. Gia drinks. Is it coffee? I ask. It’s brown. It’s liquid, but slightly viscous. Gia says: Eh. I say: What’s wrong? She says: It’s coffee. I say: Is it good? She says: It’s… drinkable.
We go to the caffé at the edge of town, by the pier.
There are kitty cats everywhere. We smell the Tyrrhenian Sea. Gia gets a decent cup of caffé. And neither of us – me, with a Master’s Degree and she, with a PhD from Columbia in Statistics and Management – can figure out how to use a two-chamber coffee machine.