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Thursday, December 28, 2006

Food #3: The cup overfloweth…

“Ow!” I curse as I burn my fingers and spill some of my coffee. This is harder than it looks. As it is in many places here, my coffee has been served in 2 little stainless steel cups, a small thinner one and a wide, low one. The method is to pour one into the other in quick succession to cool it. I have two problems with this: 1) it is something of an art doing this without spilling, especially pouring from the wide into the narrow and 2) the metal quickly gets hot so doing this burns my fingers. Hence the occasional dropping. I think everyone here must have long ago burned all feeling from their fingertips. I know they have their mouths as, to a person, everyone here drinks their coffee and tea blistering hot. I have on more than one occasion come close to offending hosts worried I didn’t like the coffee simply because I wasn’t (couldn’t) pouring it back like a bar shot like the rest of them. Oh well, I still spill occasionally and sometimes circumspectly blow on it to speed the cooling process. Can’t be tough all the time. ;-)

The other local trick to drinking I’m learning is pouring water into your mouth without touching the lip. It isn’t done universally, but for any container to be shared or if you are suspect of the cleanliness of the kitchen, Indians pour the water into their mouths rather than sip, swig or slosh. Like the coffee pouring, it takes a little practice to not a) miss or b) pour more than you can gulp. Unsurprisingly early on this got a few friendly laughs as I fumbled at things any 5 year old can do. I wish I had practiced more drinking out of the slurpie machine as a kid. Standard water bottles are easiest & pretty much universally drunk that way. The technique makes a lot of sense actually. In a region with a higher incidence of transmittable diseases, it is far safer than each person slobbering over the rim and as a foreigner you don’t have to horde your own water bottle against your friends and colleagues.

You can see where this is going, but the problematic intersection of these is when you need to use this new technique to pour the awkwardly hot stainless-steel-cupped coffee into your mouth. Oh the horror. After a couple less than stellar attempts I usually just put the coffee cups to my lips (burning them, of course, but lesser of the several evils in this process). Thankfully most people do drink it that way so it is not socially unacceptable. And beside, I figure that any microbes that can survive the inferno temperatures of the damn coffee deserve to kill me. Thank goodness the coffee and chai are good enough to make them worth the trouble... :-)

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