Papi’s Wah-feh (An Audio Guide)


This article contains clickable microphone icons.  Click to hear Meridian’s pronunciation of the associated terms, as recorded on Papi’s kleines Radio [Papi’s little radio].

I like Turkish coffee.  Dawn chides me jokingly that this zealous preference makes me a coffee snob — but that’s taking it too far.  I’ll happily drink whatever’s served when dining at a friend’s house.  I certainly don’t turn away a “cup of Joe” while on-site with a client.  But, see, there’s a difference between browsing a magazine at the airport and curling up in bed with one of the classics:  savoring something doesn’t make a person snooty.  ;)  

Turkish coffee requires effort to prepare, and that’s part of its charm, especially when Meridian helps me make it.  Usually, Papi drinks Mountain Dew, while Meridian drinks water, juice, or “Moo Milch (“moo milk” — organic milk, as distinguished by a picture of a cow on the bottle); but for a treat, Papi drinks coffee.  Ideally I start by filling my coffee mill with fresh dark roast beans and turning the crank by hand until they’re reduced to a slightly gritty flour.  I learned from early experiments that espresso grind is, believe it or not, simply too coarse.  (I should mention here that a Turkish friend of mine, Pelin, would have my head if she knew I’d gone back to French roast, which simply “will not do.”  Thing is, she gave me a foil pouch of the real McCoy — from Turkey, of course — that I consumed months ago!  I mourn its passing.)

The grinding takes a long time; so long, in fact, that the activity can be enjoyed as a kind of meditation.  Meridian’s eyes light up when she sees the mill in my hands, because she knows that means she gets to help.  She generally runs to me, pointing, and says, “Papi’s Kaffee! then reaches for the handle.  Without fail, something in her sensibilities causes Meridian to crank it counterclockwise, which is backwards.  I gently remind her to change direction and sometimes illustrate by circling my index finger clockwise.  That works briefly, but it’s harder in that direction, because that causes the burrs to actually grip and crush the beans, so she usually reverses again.  Eventually, she lets go and nods to me.

Now, the measurements.  Three heaping spoons of coffee, which Meridian dumps with care, one by one, into the ibrik.  Even a month ago, her hands were less steady.  Plenty of hard-won coffee powder landed on the floor, and I would poker-face my way through it.  “Und was kommt jetzt [And what comes now]?”  Without hesitation, she knows:  “Zucker [Sugar].”

Sometimes, but not always, I like a bit of cardamom, which we add by using the spoon’s handle rather than its bowl (only need a pinch!).  Sometimes, too, I like three or four drops of anise.  That last ingredient is something only Papi taps into place.  Meridian did it once, and that batch tasted of nothing but licorice.  At this point, Meridian likes to shake the ibrik to mix the ingredients.  Then I add the filtered water.

Heating is also a slow process.  The coffee should never boil, but rather, steep at a temperature just below boiling for as long as possible.  I generally set the small burner to two ticks below medium and let it simmer for fifteen minutes while we play.  When it’s time, I lift Meridian up so she can see the coffee froth.  A light foam (like the “head” of a good beer) slowly appears over the surface.  Perfection.

When I pour, she leans forward to smell the result and usually smiles at me.  I’m curious if, one day, she’ll actually take a sip.  She does occasionally taste the ground coffee — licks the spoon, basically — then turns a plaintive grimace in my direction while I pour another cup of Milch.

P.S.  Meridian was a good sport to speak loudly and distinctly into the microphone.  While I was sipping my coffee afterward, I let her stand behind me in my office chair and peel my sunburned skin.  Believe me, this was a reward.  She was entertained for at least twenty minutes.  “Was machst du [What are you doing]?”  “Papi’s Haut abziehen [Pulling off Papi’s skin].”

Leave a Reply