NEWS for North Dakotans
Agriculture Communication, North Dakota State University
7 Morrill Hall, Fargo, ND 58105-5665
February 5, 1998
I'm sure you've wondered. It all started with the discovery made by an Ethiopian sheep herder. I'm talking about the origins of coffee, and the information I'm relying on comes from a 19th century book titled "An Historical Account of Coffee." Its author is John Ellis, who was an agent for the Island of Dominica in 1824. An edited the version of that text appears on a Web site managed by Northwestern University. The story's mostly some pretty dry reading, so here's a synopsis.
It seems a man named Gemaleddin, who was either a Muslim judge or lawyer, brought coffee to the province of Arabia Felix ("Fertile Arabia") in the 1400s. At that time the Arabian peninsula was divided into Arabia Felix, Arabia Petraea ("Rocky Arabia") and Arabia Deserta ("Desert Arabia").
Thanks to Gemaleddin, coffee became popular throughout the Middle East, particularly in cities like Cairo, Constantinople (Istanbul) and Mecca. In fact, it became so popular with Muslims that many of them stopped worshiping as often at mosques and spent their time instead in the coffeehouses that had sprung up. So, religious leaders got the government involved and together they got the coffeehouses shut down. But at least in Constantinople, that action had an unexpected effect. People started drinking more coffee, in their homes or other shops, some as many as "twenty dishes a day." Sounds like a few Norwegians I know.
Anyway, coffee eventually found its way to western Europe, most likely to Venice first, and then to Paris, and eventually London. On the way it looks like coffee has had its ups and downs in terms of social acceptance, but when it's been on a high, oh what a high. Here's another excerpt from Ellis's book: "... refusing to supply a wife with coffee is reckoned among the legal causes of a divorce."
Well well. With Valentine's Day nearing, I certainly don't want to contribute to any coffee-caused divorces, so here's a recipe for Red Eye Gravy, which is a Southern concoction containing coffee that I've modified to suit a Yankee's taste. I'd suggest serving it with mashed potatoes, grits or biscuits, any of which make a nice accompaniment for baked pork chops or Cajun-spiced pork tenderloin. A nice fruit salad or coleslaw or a steamed green vegetable rounds out the meal.
Red Eye Gravy
Yield: 6 servings
3 tablespoons bacon drippings
5 tablespoons flour
2 cups fat-free chicken broth
1 cup strong, cold coffee
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Melt drippings in small skillet and then add flour; cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes or longer. While roux is cooking, heat together broth and coffee in medium saucepan; when hot, whisk in roux and stir frequently as mixture thickens. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve.
What's Your Take on This, Julie?
Coffee has certainly experienced a surge in popularity, with drive-up coffee huts and espresso bars dotting the landscape and shopping malls. Many people can't start their day without a cup or more of "java." This nickname came from the primary location, Java, where coffee was commercially grownthat is, until a Franciscan monk smuggled the plant to the monastery gardens of Rio de Janeiro, which led to Brazil's domination of the coffee market.
People's tastes differ considerably in terms of coffee strength. Some expect their coffee to hold up a spoon or pour as slowly as pancake syrup. Others prefer a paler concoction. The formula you prefer will determine the caffeine level, the chemical that gives coffee its wake-up power. Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system, at least temporarily.
A five-ounce cup of brewed coffee can contain 60 to 180 milligrams of caffeine. Instant coffee contains about 65 milligrams per five ounces, and decaffeinated coffee contains less than 5 milligrams per five ounces. Coffee isn't the only food that contains caffeine. Tea, some soft drinks (especially colas), chocolate and some medications also contain varying amounts of caffeine.
Some people are more susceptible to the coffee jitters than others. Moderation is usually considered the best advice when it comes to coffee. Moderate daily coffee consumption (about two cups of coffee or about 300 milligrams of caffeine) has not been linked with health risks. If you are trying to cut back on caffeine, it's best to cut back gradually to avoid the headaches and drowsiness that can result.
Gravy made with coffee is an interesting taste sensation. While we usually associate gravy with high-fat foods, an average serving of Red Eye Gravy (one-sixth of the recipe) has about 90 calories and only about 5 grams of fat, which is about the same amount of fat in a teaspoon of margarine or butter.
This unusual Southern-style recipe with its jolt of java may appeal to Northern palates. Depending on how strong you make your coffee, you may not want to eat this at a late dinner.
Sources: Dean Hulse (701) 231-6136
Julie Garden-Robinson (701) 231-7187
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