Friday, February 15, 2013

Makin' coffee

“I’m proud of our coffee maker,” I commented a few days ago to my husband.

He is accustomed by now to my anthropomorphic tendencies. Knowing as he does that I apologize to dishes I drop and thank the car when I pull into the garage at the end of a long drive, he wasn’t particularly surprised to hear that I was proud of the coffee maker. But, lacking my inclination to imbue household objects with souls, he also didn’t really care why I was feeling so warmly toward this particular appliance.

And in fact there was no particular reason. It was just that earlier that same morning, I’d been thinking about how I’ve had the same coffee maker for so long that I can’t even remember when or where I bought it, which is unusual for me. I tend to have a good memory for purchases, and the fact that I have no memory of the coffee maker’s genesis means we’ve probably had it for a decade or more. 

But it still functions beautifully, and the reason is that it’s such a simple machine. Compared to other coffee makers on the market, it’s absolutely bare bones. You put grounds in the filter and water in the canister; you press a button; coffee soon comes out. It’s remarkable, in the way that all electric appliances are remarkable to me – meaning that if stranded on a desert island with an entire General Electric factory at my disposal, I couldn’t make one myself – but it’s also unremarkable in that it lacks built-in grinders, timers, steamers, and the many other options with which fancier coffee makers come equipped.

I’d like to say I’m someone who always appreciates the simplest models, but that’s not true. I’m definitely attracted to gadgets. Normally I like new and fancy and multi-featured, especially when it comes to kitchen appliances or electronics. I’m not at all a noble adherent to the Shaker motto of “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.” I’m often guilty of consumerism, and find myself all too eager to move on from one big chunk of metal and plastic and batteries to another as soon as the newest model comes out.

But not with the coffee maker. It’s not that I’m indifferent on the topic. I’m fussy about coffee: I brew a pot or two every day and take great pains to make it just the way I like it. And I’ve had the opportunity to try out the more complicated kinds of coffee makers at other people’s houses. But I don’t need timers and frothers and steamers and programmed delays. (Confession: when my in-laws gave us that trendy brand of one-cup coffeemaker as a gift, we returned it, because the idea of pre-measured coffee grounds in little packets disturbed me too much – how could anyone else know the exact strength I liked my coffee, when I myself change the amount of grounds from day to day?)

I may wish I had simpler tastes when it comes to computers, phones, food processors and toasters, but coffee is perhaps the one thing in which I live up to the otherwise elusive ideal of believing simplest is best. Our coffee maker is old, but the only part on it required to function is the on/off switch, and that part still works. I’m proud of it, for having hung in there so effectively. And I’m somewhat proud of myself that there’s one line of gadgets in which I’m not seduced by ever-improving technology. I wish I were like that about more things. But at least there’s coffee, and my wonderful decade-old coffee maker.

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