Ritual

It is the ritual that is missing in so much of what we do today. We have routines, often thought to be loathsome; the ancients had rituals.

Seems like a simple solution to ennui – transform your routines into rituals.

If you think ritual is exacting, routine is lethal.

Let’s turn morning coffee into a ritual.

Get a Bodum or other French Press, eight-cup. Name it, her, or him, something French, like Cécile, or Arnaud.

Get a bag of coffee beans, beans, preferably rich, dark roast. Starbucks is alright, but there is much better. Trader Joe’s has great coffee. Whole Foods has a very good extra dark French roast. Grind the beans for a French Press, that is, coarsely, every morning right before brewing.

While you are boiling fresh, cold water in a kettle on the stove top, heat also a small pitcher of whole milk, preferably raw, preferably Guernsey or Jersey, in a larger pot, just to where a thin film forms on the top of the small pitcher, and steam begins to rise – do not boil. You are in effect double boiling the milk; so that it does not and cannot scorch.

Spoon four heaping tablespoons of your freshly ground coffee into the French Press. Choose a special spoon that you will dedicate to this ritual every morning, preferably round rather than oblong, preferably silver, or silver plate.

When your kettle has come to a full boil, turn it off, let the boil subside a minute, then pour the hot water over the ground coffee in the French Press. Pour in a circular motion; so that all of the coffee is equally blessed by the water. Pour the water up to the top band of the French Press. Put your kettle back on the stove top, then, with another special spoon, wooden, or chopsticks, wooden, unlacquered, or bamboo, stir the ground coffee into the freshly boiled water. The stirring is crucial. It should be deliberate, methodical. Rinse off your spoon, or chopsticks, and put it, or them, away. (Once you begin this ritual, you must never again place your special spoon, or chopsticks, or any part of your French Press in the dishwasher.) After stirring, before installing your plunger, give the coffee several minutes to relieve itself of its carbon dioxide. Then, carefully, press installed, press down gently, ’til full depressed.

Waiting still a few minutes, while the coffee fully infuses the water, prepare your cup, or cups, if you are not alone. Your cups, or mugs, should be hand-thrown ceramic cups. They should not be mass-manufactured china. They should not be labelled in any way. I suggest you name your special cup as well, as you will be using that very cup every morning for your ritual. You must choose a third spoon, a teaspoon, with a long handle, again, a spoon that you will use every day, for your sugar, which must be raw, preferably muscovado. A standard coffee mug will require two heaping teaspoonfuls of sugar, no more, no less. Your coffee will be strong; so you will need the sugar. Again, that sugar must be raw. No other sweetener is allowed. Anything and everything artificial is banned from this ritual.

Your coffee is now ready, as is your milk. Pour the coffee into your cup or mug, cups or mugs, filling them two-thirds of the way up. The final third is for the heated milk. Before you pour the milk, remove the film from the top of the little pitcher with your sugar spoon. Be careful not to burn yourself picking up the pitcher out of the boiling water of the small pot. Pour the milk into the cup or cups. The colour should be a perfect café au lait colour, not too dark and not too light; moreno, like the beautiful complexions of the Spanish, the Portuguese, the Filipinos. Stir with your sugar spoon. Stir with reverence. Your coffee is now ready to savour.

Perhaps you have prepared toast and jam to accompany your coffee. I strongly suggest some artisan bread that you slice yourself, Irish butter, and French jam. Cold cereal should be avoided. If you are fortunate enough to be accompanied by a spouse or partner, call him or her to the table. Face one another. The television is not on. The radio is not on. You are not listening to the news, or the weather, or the traffic. If you are alone, contemplate the day, as you sip your coffee. If you have company, look at each other, talk, revel in the wonder of those moments over that coffee.

When you are done, end the ritual with a thought and a word of gratitude.

Remember, none of the elements of this ritual may be put into the dishwasher. It is important to wash them by hand, and to use them only for this ritual.

There you go – a mindless routine has been transformed into a meaningful ritual.