Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Contest #2: tales of coffee and yarn

I don't know the name of my favorite coffee. I drink it only in the Netherlands, where it's prepared behind closed kitchen doors by one of my husband's many, many Dutch relatives. Whenever we travel there to see them, we spend much of our time going from home to home. The tradition of "visiting hours" is alive and well in this family, and after breakfast and after lunch nearly every day we find ourselves at Oma's (grandmother's) house or at the home of an aunt or uncle.

We're asked, "Wil u koffie drinken?" and though I don't speak Dutch, it's close enough to English that I can often understand what someone says if they speak simply and slowly. (Besides, coffee-speak transcends mere language, right?) "Met melk en suiker?" Oh yes, please--with copious amounts of both!

The host disappears into the kitchen and emerges several minutes later, bearing a tray covered with cup and saucers, each cup filled with coffee exactly as each person likes it. On each saucer is a tiny silver stirring spoon, a traditional engagement gift in this family. (My husband and I received four of them from Dutch relatives when we got engaged, and we use them all the time.) Also on the tray is something sweet, usually cookies or small pastries, to accompany the coffee.

I never know what coffee is used, but I do know that all of my Dutch family add a tiny spoonful of Buisman burnt sugar to the coffee grounds before brewing. It adds a little "something" to the coffee's flavor, and, thanks to Dutch relatives who bring us jars of the stuff whenever they visit us, we use it in our own home.

I've tasted many, many coffees around the world, and although there are several close runners-up, this is hands-down my favorite. It's delicious, and whenever I drink it I fill up with happy thoughts of the extended family that so warmly welcomed me to join them.

As far as a favorite yarn goes, that too is an easy decision: Debbie Bliss's Baby Cashmerino. I adore the subdued palette of this line, and it's such a treat to touch and knit. Even when I have to undo stitches because of a mistake I've made, it's hard to be mad at this yarn because it's just so pleasant to work with.

Like my favorite coffee, my favorite yarn also earns its status partly for sentimental reasons. As a new knitter, my first post-scarf project was a baby blanket in Baby Cashmerino. I started working on it because I thought it looked beautiful--long before my husband and I were even thinking of having children. I finished it just before my daughter was born. Now, two and a half years later, she uses it to "tuck in" her stuffed animals when they take naps. It's by no means an art piece (we call it the Frankenblanket for a reason!), but she loves it and I love her and I hope it's something she will treasure forever.

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