Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Extra dark roast

Buckle up, this is going to get gross. Seriously, I had to wait a few weeks before I could even write about it, so if you're the least bit squeamish, I would suggest skipping this post and coming back for the next one. (I'm looking at you, Johnny Virgil.)

I have never been a morning person. I sleep deep and wake slowly, despite my tendency to rise earlier with each passing year. I am terribly unfocused and uncoordinated for at least an hour after getting out of bed. The invention of the drip coffeemaker with built-in timer was a godsend for me, and (mostly) ended years of pots with no coffee, no water, grounds spilled everywhere, or (my favorite) coffee all over the counter because I forgot to replace the carafe. Now I can stumble out of bed, pour a cup, and sit quietly until the world starts to make some sense.

The other morning at breakfast, Biscuit said something about the coffee smelling funny. She's a bit of a super-smeller, so this sort of thing happens often. Some days the coffee smells funny, some days it's the air conditioner, sometimes it's me. She especially dislikes the smell of vinegar, so we don't clean the coffeemaker's plumbing as often as we might. I normally wait until she is out of town, but she hasn't been traveling much lately, so it has been a while. I noticed a bit of an odd taste, but nothing remarkable.  We discussed possibilities for a while, and the conversation moved to other things.

Just before leaving the house, as my routine dictates, I began preparing a final serving of coffee in a stainless travel cup to sustain me through the remainder of the morning. As I tipped the carafe to pour, coffee began to splatter on the counter, as if the lid of the carafe were mis-installed. When I turned the carafe to diagnose the problem, I saw two antennae protruding about two inches from the spout, attached to a bullet-shaped head.

Those of you have spent more than fifteen minutes near the Gulf coast are likely familiar with the large cockroaches that are common here, often euphemistically called water bugs, or palmetto bugs.* It seems one of these critters had wandered into the carafe during the night and gotten a nasty surprise come wakeup time.

I reacted like any red-blooded American male in that circumstance. I whipped the KA-BAR knife from my boot, stuck the little guy on the end, crunched him between my teeth, and washed him down with the remaining coffee. Okay, what I really did was throw carafe and mug into the sink, dance in a circle like a four year old convinced by his older brother to drink Tabasco, and try not to throw up. The dance was very similar to the one I did when one of these same roaches ran up my leg and into my cargo shorts about a dozen years ago, except this time my hands were flailing around my head instead of slapping at my area.

It turns out that I didn't need another cup that morning. For a few hours I thought I might never need any more coffee ever again. I threw all the affected parts into the dishwasher and set it to Obliviate. I would have put my head in there had I been able to close the door.

I had decided to spare Biscuit the trauma and carry this secret to my grave, but the next day when she remarked that the coffee tasted better again, and began conjecturing on causes, I broke down and confessed. She did not thank me for my honesty, but handled it better than I probably would have done.

Artist reconstruction

We have discussed any number of ways to avoid repeating this particular recipe, but in the end we put it down as a freak occurrence and returned to our normal routine. I have never had a bug in my coffee before, so it stands to reason that I can expect forty more years to pass before the next one. By then I probably won't even notice. I can only hope this is not some new fad that the teenage roaches are all daring each other to try. If it happens again I am definitely switching to tea.

* There are four or five types of large roaches that inhabit the American Gulf South. Palmetto bug and water bug were originally common names for particular species, but are now used regionally to describe any giant, disgusting, flying, disgusting, frightening, disgusting cockroach. At least three of these species are common where we live. Luckily, most live outdoors and only wander inside when it gets very hot or very wet. Did I mention it gets very hot and very wet here? We all like to pretend we never have them in our own house, but I've seen them in the Louisiana governor's mansion. We find cats to be the best defense.


  1. I think "if you tell me to have a nice day I will stab you" is my favorite of your labels.



  2. if i had the energy this morning, i'd be cleaning my coffee maker with acid right about now, and we don't even get the 'palmetto bugs' up here. i'd have thrown the whole rig out and given up coffee... at least for a couple of days. UGH!

    on the bright side? you didn't scream. did you?

    i think the label 'palmetto bug' stuck because it sounds so much more breezy and sunshiney than 'cockroach'. a nice way to try to frost those 6-legged turds.

  3. Living in the woods for over 30 years I've come to the conclusion that Mother Nature would like nothing better than to eliminate man's advantage over other living things. In short, she wants to see us naked and chasing rabbits with a stick. This is proof.

  4. Gee, and I thought finding a dead ant at the bottom of my coffee mug was bad. You've got that beat by a mile!

  5. I bet you can't help looking closely at the carafe now though, as you pour...arghhh!

  6. Well, thank you very much. After Excy and I finished laughing so hard tears ran from our eyes, he got paranoid about his french press. I am forever thankful I drink tea, though I do partake of coffee on occasion from S'bux......I am sure there may be worse things in their machines than a homegrown 'water bug.' Here's hoping the ick factor subsides soon........p.s. I was a bit worried you were going to confess one of the cats had left a 'present.'

  7. How the hell is it possible that I didn't see this post until now? Dear god that sounds horrible. I was hoping it wasn't a mouse. I think the cockroach is easier to deal with. Maybe. Ugh. And that's why I hand grind my beans every morning and use an Aeropress.