Friday, September 30, 2011

Dinner and a Cup of Coffee? What Were They Thinking?

I was just sitting down to a post-lunch cup of tea and thinking about the movies from that era of Hollywood when people would belly up to the counter and order lunch or dinner with a cup of coffee. Growing up as an offspring of that culture, I never thought much about it... it was in so many movies, plus parents and seniors would still eat meals and drink coffee. As a 40-something adult, I shudder to think of sipping a coffee alongside a ham sandwich, or tipping the java down the gullet next to my spaghetti dinner and salad. On the flip-side, a diner breakfast is not complete without sipping coffee all the way through. Why has drinking coffee during other meals fallen out of favor and habit among subsequent generations such as mine?

Health: we have learned over time that something like water is a better alternative to drink with or after a meal. Here's an article from Raw Food Explained that discusses the impact of different types of foods and liquids in conjunction with each other, some wreaking havoc and blocking the proper ingestion of important nutrients.

Glam: perhaps drinking coffee with meals is falling off the hip charts, like smoking in the movies used to be. I found this neat blog about the history of everything to do with restaurant-ing, if you are a fan check it out. I'm also currently reading Appetite for America by Stephen Fried, about how businessman Fred Harvey invented the chain restaurant business, the chain hotel business, and the chain bookstore business all while building the nation's growing railroad system. I can imagine riding the rails for hours across the midwest, hot and arid, smoke and dust, stopping at this snappy clean eating establishment and eating meals only found in fancy restaurants in Chicago or New York. Harvey exclusively used Boston area Chase and Sanborn coffee. I bet you I'd be drinking coffee with my salmon after that rail tour.

I'd love anyone who does drink coffee with non-breakfast meals to tell me why, what is the allure?

A Cup of Coffee, a Sandwich, and You (1925)


One Nation, Under Fred said...

glad to hear you're enjoying my biography of Fred Harvey. If you're interested, we also started a site called The Fred Harvey Cookbook Project, on which we post a "new" archival recipe from Harvey chefs each morning and encourage experimentation. Here's a link to the famous Fred Harvey coffee-making instructions (which will make you happy someone invented the automatic drip coffee maker.)

May Fred be with you,
Stephen Fried
adjunct professor, Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism

Cheryl said...

What a fantastic blog. To answer the question, a sandwich and a hot cup of Joe to me is like milk and cookies to others. They just compliment each other. Maybe it's my profession, we still serve coffee with meals whether the patients want it or not, most of my elderly patients (if not too critical) love coffee with their hospital sandwich at lunch (and/or dinner).