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Lessons Of Adulthood: The Art Of Non-Conformity

Re-entry is always difficult. This is true whether you’re going back to school after a long summer vacation, going through your mail when...

Re-entry is always difficult.

This is true whether you’re going back to school after a long summer vacation, going through your mail when you’ve been gone for a while or – as in my own case this morning – sitting back down to work after taking a week off to travel with my family.

Imagine my delight, then, when I opened up the International Herald Tribune and happened upon this gem. It’s an article by Alice Rawsthorn, the New York Times‘ design columnist, in which she sings the praises of grinding and brewing your own espresso over and above resorting to the dreaded pod espresso machines of Nespresso et al. (The indisputable allure of George Clooney notwithstanding, natch.)

I loved this article for so many reasons. For starters – as erstwhile readers of this blog will know – our own hand-brewed espresso machine holds a hallowed place within our home. As I said to my husband – who taught me to know and love what it is to brew your own coffee – this was an article that was – quite literally – written for him.

Rawsthorn has many reasons for taking a principled stance against automated espresso machines. They’re boring. They’re ugly. They’re environmentally questionable. (Turns out it’s really hard to recycle all those tiny sealed containers.)

But the main reason she rails against them is that they suppress variety, experimentation and – yes – inconsistency. Part of the joy of grinding your own espresso, she argues, is precisely that you never quite manage to brew the same cup of coffee twice. And therein lies the fun – and true beauty – of doing it yourself. It’s the ultimate act of personalizing your consumption.

Which brings me back to my week away from this blog. We spent the week in Berlin, one of those über – (no pun intended) – European cities. While we were there, one of the many museums we visited was the Bauhaus Archive, a museum devoted to the Bauhaus school of design.

For those of you who missed that chapter in 20th century intellectual history (I did) – the Bauhaus movement was a school of modern art and architecture that sought to fuse the gap between art and industry by sublimating “art” in the romantic sense to the exigencies of 20th century technological progress. This school of thought was urban, minimalist, and sought, above all, to privilege functionality in design (so well captured in its motto, “Form follows function.”) In many ways, it was the aesthetic movement that paved the way for mass consumption.

With its hyper-utilitarian streak, the Bauhaus movement sought to hide the messiness of artistic creation – its flourishes, its sentimentality, its “coffee grinds” if you will. And while that yielded some really cool buildings and furniture (click here for some iconic Bauhaus chairs), the overall feel was one of clear lines and uniformity of purpose, if not form. (Read Tom Wolfe’s From Bauhaus to Our House for a particularly trenchant treatise on this point.)

Which is a long way of saying that as with architecture, so too with espresso machines:  sometimes the beauty of adulthood lies in that which is unpredictable and highly personal.

Which is also why – as I stood there grinding my highly messy-yet-original espresso this morning – I decided that today’s re-entry wouldn’t be so bad after all.

Image: Bauhaus Dessau by Mark Wathieu via Flickr under a creative commons license.

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  1. Hilary November 1, 2010 at 10:10 pm #

    Hi Delia .. BauHaus .. amazing – almost linked in to my latest post .. but escaped for another day! Your Friday Pix 8th October post with the Modern Art Time line tied in though and got duly mentioned & linked across.

    I love the analogy of doing our own thing – as everything we all do is different .. so our coffee should be too ..

    The Chinglish video in the Friday Pix post was good too ..

    I must come back to the BauHaus linked posts .. love the learning process.

    Sounds like you had an enjoyable break .. enjoy the week once you’ve settled a little! Cheers Hilary

  2. BigLittleWolf November 2, 2010 at 3:34 am #

    What a delightful post. I think there is also a tactile and sensual quality to doing something like grinding coffee, or at the very least, spooning out freshly ground coffee. It is aromatic, a little messy, and soooo pleasurable for a coffee lover. I admit I don’t have time to do this often (I do occasionally), but this makes me want to buy whole beans in my next bag of dark roast, and grind them myself in the early a.m.

  3. Daryl Boylan November 7, 2010 at 10:42 pm #

    As a non from-scratch-coffee-er (& a de-caffer to boot) I drink to those who do the real thing.

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    […] I mentioned in Monday’s post, I spent last week in Berlin. And as I often do upon returning from a foreign country, I thought I’d devote today’s […]

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