Friday, September 11, 2009

Christian Coffee in The Jewish State

Living with Craig all these years has made me a little more interested in aesthetics. The most aesthetic thing about our crappy apartment is making Turkish coffee in the morning. So I played with that process this morning. First, our kitchen is dark. Now, this camera is magnificent at letting in light. In fact, it's overexposing my outdoor pictures—I have to play with the manual and figure out how to avoid that problem. But in the dark kitchen, it has a slow shutter time. As a result, kitchen pictures tend toward blurriness, as it is very difficult to keep the camera perfectly still during that long shutter time.

This problem can be solved by using a tripod. Note the picture below of the bukraj is nice and clear. The word is Turkish, I think. It's what we call a Turkish coffee pot in Jordan. They call it other things elsewhere.

The only really nice thing about our cesspool apartment is the roughly three square feet of marble countertop. The Middle East on the whole is big on marble countertops. Most older houses have them. Anyway, you add three heaping tablespoons of Turkish coffee and two level tablespoons of sugar and mix them up like so:

I probably should have had "action shots" showing the spooning. I was lazy. I'd never make it in advertising. Plus, the focus should have been on the contents of the pot. Anyway, you then add water. I didn't get an action shot there, either. You live; you learn.

I did try for the action shot when lighting the stove (no pilot light—just a match), but I didn't angle the remote correctly and missed my shot. I was, again, too lazy to reshoot.

You will want to stir the coffee once as you start boiling it and again just as it starts boiling. Note that the grate on the stove makes a pleasant background for the photo. This apartment doesn't totally suck after all!

Invariably, the coffee will boil over. Just as it does, snatch it from the fire, stir and then put it back on again. You repeat this proccess twice more. Thad Tierney once told me, "Oh! You make Christian coffee!"

"Christian coffee?" I ask.

"Christian coffee!" he says. "Muslims only let it boil once. Christians do it three times for the Holy Trinity."

I had no idea that I made Christian coffee. My mom never told me the theology behind it when she taught me how. Of course, she's from Bridgeport, Connecticut, so whichever one of my dad's relatives taught her may never have explained this logic to her either. But there we are—a tutorial on Christian coffee from the Jewish state, inspired by an Irish guy from Wisconsin, who's still not as big a Packers fan as I am but apparently has a thing or two to teach me about the Middle East! It's a small fuckin' world!

Pouring, of course, has its own set of dilemmas. The autofocus targeted the rim of the cup. This is undesirable when empty, as the eye is drawn to the cup itself, rather than the contents. As a result, the image appears blurry.

There are ways of targeting the autofocus and them moving the focused object out of the center of the screen and maintaining that first focus. As is, the camera tends to retarget. I need to learn that technique. Like I said, I've been lazy.

Then, of course, pouring technique is everything. Note that I have a coffee stain on the back right of the cup. Sloppy! I'd make a terrible geisha. But note the fact that as the surface of the coffee rises, you mind the unfocused body of the cup less and less, as you are seeing an increasingly focused surface of the rising liquid. I imagine the proper solution is to pour a little, refocus, pour a little, refocus, etc. It sounds like a pain in the ass, especially when you're making your first cup of the day.

The final product follows. Again, we would want to see the final picture served up with a tall glass of mineral water and perhaps a cookie. But my desire to drink my coffee won out over my need to have my coffee.

And that was my most boring post ever! Well, maybe not. I just wish it was. Sigh.

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