Like millions of bloggers, I’m sitting in a local coffee shop writing away with a slight espresso buzz. I’m old enough to remember when coffee shops were very different animals, but young enough to appreciate the change. To me signs of progress are increasingly great coffee shops, micro breweries and distilleries, locally-sourced food and the wide availability of avocados and artisan cheese. Its the little things in life, and life boils down to these daily experiences strung out over however many days we’re given.
“The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time.” – James Taylor, Secret O’ Life
Starbucks really accelerated the explosive growth of great coffee shops. Even the crappy coffee places had to up their game a bit. Samuel Adams on the east coast and Anchor Steam on the west coast upped the beer game in our darkest hours of beer mediocrity. Others looked around and said we could do the same with whiskey and vodka and cheese and chocolate…. really almost anything. Nowadays I can’t drive through any remote crossroads without seeing a sign for a distillery, organic meats and cheeses, vineyard, brewery or local coffee shop with freshly roasted Italian espresso.
As a child of processed food 1970’s America I love how far we’ve come. No longer the laughingstock of the world when it comes to food and spirits, America (at least the part I live in) has embraced all things artisan. And that greatly enhances this daily experience. Twenty years ago I remember driving to the Starbucks in the center of Andover, Massachusetts to get my dose of the good stuff. There weren’t a lot of Starbucks on the east coast back then, but Andover had one, betraying the hipster culture of this Philips Andover prep town. Two doors down from that Starbucks was a chain bagel place. Today the bagel place is a distant memory – a casualty of low carb diets or changing tastes. What was amazing in 1990 is average today. And chain bagels are… average.
That Starbucks is still going strong, but walking in I stood in the wrong spot and some Andover-attitude babushka jumped in front of me and whipped out her phone app without a thought for the injustice of it all. The barista was unsympathetic; after all I stood in the wrong spot. So I took a step back and looked around, realizing that it wasn’t really the vibe I was looking for anyway. I walked out and walked down the street to a local coffee place called Nero, which has better food, acceptably robust coffee and an independent, cool vibe that met my needs. And that’s where I wrote this blog, thinking about Wonder Bread, Schlitz Beer, Ring Dings, Howard Johnson’s Chicken Croquettes and how absolutely far we’ve come as a society, and how far I’ve come as a consumer.