Crisp? Cubed, perhaps?

Nootrobox Inc. has come out with a product called Go Cubes, chewable gummies that contain as much caffeine per cube as half a cup of coffee. I don't know if that's half a cup as in 125 ml., half a regular-sized Tim's Dishwater Blend or half a grandissimo espresso. It'll probably catch on at least as a novelty item, similar to the "astronaut ice cream" (which bore no resemblance taste-wise to the real thing) they used to sell at toy stores. Maybe it could be served at Pi Day Coffee Circle, in keeping with the geometric theme. But is it of some practical value too?

I can think of a couple of uses. If you want to stay wide awake during the complete Ring cycle (be it the Wagner operas or all of the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings films) without having to miss half the action as you pop out to the loo and wring YOURSELF out, then Go Cubes are the way to go - without "going".

Ditto for transatlantic flights where you're scrunched into the middle seat and can't get to the washroom without disrupting your neighbour - that's assuming they'll ALLOW you to leave your seat, which they don't during takeoff, landing or turbulence. But you'll need to be extra-alert once you reach your destination, even though you're dimly aware you've lost your night en route. I mean, how else are you going to understand all those trick questions they ask you at the border, or remember to pick up all your baggage and important documents you need to bring with you when you get through the airport? And you probably don't want to just go to your hotel and crash for several hours, because then you'll be wide awake and raring to go by midnight in your new time zone!

Most of the time, I plan to get my coffee the good old-fashioned way, so I can enjoy the taste and the ritual of sitting down with my papers and puzzles. But for special situations like those I outlined above, I might give Go Cubes a go.

Will that be one lump or two?
Hi, Folks and Folkies! The topic of today's blogcutter café is... coffee! When I was at Carleton University in the early seventies, the on-campus coffee house was called "Arthur's Place" after its genial host, Arthur McGregor (of Ottawa Folklore Centre fame). Later, it moved up to the fourth floor and was renamed "Roosters". On weekends, there was coffee-house type entertainment including such people as Ian Tamblyn and Cedric Smith. By that time, it was licenced to sell beer and wine and a few light snacks. For the longest time, it was the last bastion of the ten-cent cup of coffee.

Fast forward some forty years, and I'm visiting the campus on a weekly basis to take a "Learning in Retirement" course: Phil Jenkins' "A History of Ottawa Culture". Even though coffee house culture is a thing of the past, I thought for sure there must be plenty of places to get a decent (or even mediocre) cup of coffee on campus. But no. There are still all kinds of vending machines serving cold beverages, but nary a coffee machine in sight. Don't students drink coffee any more? Or has Tim Horton's used its considerable muscle to oust absolutely ANY other coffee vendor (be it human, mechanical or electronic) from the campus?

In desperation, I queued up for "Timmy's", though I really don't like their coffee. I find it insipid, there's no real choice of blend, and you can't accessorize it to your own taste. Unlike other chains which are coffee-places that also happen to sell snacks, Timmy's is basically a doughnut shop that happens to serve weak coffee. As for any specialty coffees like espresso, cappuccino and so on, forget it! Yes, they have beverages they CALL those aforesaid names, but I don't consider them worthy of the name.

This column is also something of a requiem for coffee house culture. When the drinking age in Ontario was lowered from 21 to 18 (it was later raised back up to 19), that was the final nail in the coffin of coffee house culture. Ottawa's Le Hibou closed shortly thereafter, although it was somewhat kept alive on the airwaves through CJOH's show "Café Hibou". Then we had Rasputin's, which burned down although a few brave folk are trying to keep it alive through "Spirit of Rasputin's" concerts and small-stage open-mike presentations at the Ottawa Folk Festival.

When I was a teenager, there were Friday-evening drop-in "coffee houses" at our local church. Those of you who like me are of a certain age will know the atmosphere that is required for these things: red-and-white checked tablecloths, each sporting as centrepiece and sole light source an empty Chianti bottle (in signature raffia wrapping) with a candle in it and multicoloured candlewax drippings on the part of the bottle that the raffia doesn't cover.

As they say, nostalgia ain't what it used to be.



October 2017



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