Wednesday, November 28, 2007

A little sugar

I am absolutely in love with café con leche.

It's about one part espresso to two parts steamed milk. And, sure, there's the buzz that comes with it.

But there's also the ritual. If I'm making it at home, there's the careful scooping of the grounds into the filter basket of the espresso machine. If I'm having it out, there are the swift, deliberate motions of the waiter as he sets down my café con leche, my small glass of carbonated water and my complimentary cookie.

And there's the taste. The first bitter sip of the morning before I add the sugar. The foamy, slightly caramelized scalded milk mixed with the espresso. The syrupy espresso at the bottom of the cup where the sugar has settled, treacly but great in small doses.

Of course, at a certain point, there's no café con leche about it. After noon, it's cortados all the way down.

I was introduced to café con leche in Spain, but in some ways it reaches even greater heights here in Argentina.

Here, café con leche is rarely served without a small glass of carbonated water and a little cookie. It just feels so damn civilized.

The sugar almost always comes in a little packet. And that's where the blog "Sobrecitos de azúcar" comes in. This 47-year-old woman has been collecting sugar packets since her childhood and has more than 1000 of them. She is sharing her collection on her blog.

Though I don't have a photo of it — what am I, some sort of Internet photo-taker and writer? — my personal favorite was the sugar packet I got one morning a few months ago at the cafe down the street. It was from LADE, the government-owned, military-operated airline.

You know there had to be a story there.

I'm picturing a cafe owner scrambling through the flaming wreckage of a LADE aircraft, emerging in tattered clothes and smelling of jet fuel, grinning as he clutches as many sugar packets as he can hold.

But I could be wrong.

1 comment:

Wobbly Librarian said...

Jonathan found an espresso machine out here... and carried it back to NM on Amtrak a few days ago.... Perhaps he'll be able to recreate what you've conjured up.