“It is inhumane, in my opinion, to force people who genuinely have a medical need for coffee to wait in line behind people who apparently view it as some kind of recreational activity.“—Dave Barry, American author and columnist
Coffee is indeed somewhere between medicinal and therapeutic. It’s also plausible to me that the benefits of coffee may be to some degree determined by what sort of container from which one’s java is enjoyed.
Such was the topic of office conversation last week when comparisons arose about the virtues of caffeine consumption from one of the increasingly popular insulated metal cups versus my favorite: the classic curved-side, thick bottom, porcelain mug.
Honestly, I’ll drink good hot coffee out of almost anything, but I do like the old-fashioned mugs.
The classic mug revered by many coffee drinkers is actually a product of World War II. Research notes the military commissioned Victor Insulator Company to design a mug employing thick walls for insulating properties and durability, plus extra weight on the bottom to avoid tipping over. The result quickly became an American eatery icon and what has come to be commonly called the “diner mug.”
The diner mug is also the basis of many coffeeshop and cafe memories for me growing up in a coffee drinking family. It was a pre-interstate highway time of small roadside cafes in every Texas wide-spot. If reducing your speed was required to get through a town, you could bet it had a cafe or diner.
Each one had not only tables and booths but also offered a counter near the kitchen where the coffee-only klatch or the dine-alone dinner clientele perched on stools. Chatter was constant as white-dress uniform wearing waitresses moved about rapidly refilling coffee mugs. They already knew what the regulars wanted and they greeted everyone as “sweetheart” or “honey.”
It was also a time when these small roadside cafes and diners were known for their coffee, good or bad. My grandfather always looked for one crowded with trucks on the parking lot. He swore that’s where the best cup in town was served.
His guaranteed first coffee stop on regular trips between Pittsburg in East Texas where I spent summers with my grandparents and Seymour out west of Wichita Falls where we lived at the time was a small cafe in Greenville. The inconspicuous eatery sat on the north side of what is now I-30 but was known then by its original designation of U.S. Highway 67. A simple sign noted the name of the place as, “Floyd’s Cafe.”
Floyd’s was known for good coffee. I know it was, or my grandfather would not have stopped as often as he did. But with every visit, my attention was fixed on a brightly colored plate hanging on the wall adorned with the hand-printed words, “Elvis Ate Here” and the date, “3-14-58.”
A music fan since about the time Elvis ate at Floyd’s, the anticipation of stopping there grew with each trip. My grandparents got their coffee, and I got to see the “Elvis plate” in the same cafe where Elvis ate.
By the late 60s when I was a student at nearby East Texas State University in Commerce, Floyd’s was still a good place for coffee…or a chicken fried steak or hamburger for that matter. And Elvis’s plate was always there.
Floyd’s and Elvis were both gone way too soon after I left ETSU, and presumably Elvis’s plate as well. Also fading from Americana by then were uniformed waitresses and lunch counters.
Through it all, though, the venerable diner mug filled with hot medicinal coffee has remained. And for that, I am truly thankful every morning.