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13.9.06

Florence: cappuccino

posted by Jamila


photo via benburb.com


...was actually my first taste of coffee. I ordered a cappuccino one beautiful evening in Rome after dinner. Later that night I lay awake in the hotel bed without any clue as to why I couldn't sleep. Little did I know the power of that tasty, frothy concoction, nor the vulnerability of my small, 14 year-old-body and its system otherwise empty of all caffeine traces. I also didn't know it wasn't ever meant to be an evening drink.

I'm not sure when, why, and where the purpose of the cappuccino was lost in translation, but as with most good things Italian in America, "cappuccino" is now something entirely different. It is essentially synonymous with dessert, desired with sweets or in place of sweet food. Occasionally it is ordered in a paper cup from Starbucks when in the mood and on the go. I suppose this is only fitting; Starbucks and most other coffee vendors in the U.S. don't pack the caffeine power equivalent of Italian espresso. A weakened, improperly prepared cappuccino might as well be treated like a piece of food or reduced in status to the paper cup. If one wants to properly complete the murder of the cappuccino. Death by cardboard.

And espresso is at the heart of a cappuccino. What characterizes the cappuccino as a morning drink from the latté, which subsists of espresso and steamed milk, is what makes it so divine: the lovely froth, or foam, of milk (and perhaps the sprinkle of nutmeg) on the top. It's the light and lovely icing on the day, the morning splendor and burst of joy that comes with a fresh start, another opportunity to do something, make something, see someone.

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