Dinner guests used to smirk when I pulled out my electric percolator. I had finally upgraded from my old beat-up stove-top metal variety that my parents used when we were kids. But finally, when my own kids were small, my mother insisted I get with the times. In fact, she even purchased the electric percolator for me. I felt a little guilty, like I was giving up on an old friend, and I had never understand why she no longer cared to use that dented ancient stove-top classic. It made a great cup of brew. The only thing was that there was a little trick to it; you had to keep an eye on it.
For those with no idea of what I’m talking about, let me explain. A percolator is brilliant in its low-techness. After adding water, you put this metal straw-like tube thing which is attached to a base, at the bottom of the pot. The coffee grounds go in a metal perforated “basket” which is inserted on the straw-like tubey-thing. The basket’s covered by a little perforated lid. Then, the cover of the pot with a clear glass bulb goes on top. That’s it. Put the pot on the stove or campfire and grab it with a potholder when it’s ready. In Westerns, cowboys always brewed their coffee this way. The principle behind making coffee is simple enough. When the water boils, droplets are forced up the straw-like tubey-thing and fall on the little perforated basket cover. From there, the drops spread out and drip into the basket, then through the grounds, and back into the pot. Watch the clear glass bulb on top of the lid and you can tell when the coffee is done. The water turns coffee-rich.
When I consented to retire my wonderfully “well-seasoned” Stone Age pot for this pretty and shiny new-fangled thing, I figured I was done with the jabs. Wrong. The good-natured ribbings continued, though I don’t remember anyone complaining about my coffee. Why wasn’t I using a drip machine? Like I had room on my counter for a Mr. Coffee! I just tossed my silvery percolator in the cupboard. And no cowboys ever sat by the campfire looking for an outlet to plug-in their Mr. Coffee. Of course, the closest thing to me and cowboys was that we both like coffee, although I do enjoy my half-and-half and sweetener. But I had my pride, and I didn’t have to buy filters, either.
People are always surprised when they walk into the kitchen; they expect it have a “high-tech chic modern” look because I like to cook. I prefer the tried and true gadgets, and particularly ones I don’t have to program. I must say, however, I do draw the line at rust. I had to chuck my nice hand-cranked pasta maker because it rusted. I have an electric one but am afraid to use it. There’s a video tape to watch; I wonder if the VCR is working? When my food processor from the 80s died, I was not sure how to proceed. Buy a new one and have it fall apart in a year or two? A friend came to the rescue and gave me hers. It’s the same brand and make and I don’t have to program a thing on it. The microwave is 26 years old and still going strong. One friend threatens to buy us a new one every Christmas, but I try to explain to her that just because mine takes several minutes longer than hers doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with it.
But laugh they do! And that’s before they see my radio. I love my radio; it’s one of my most valued and treasured possessions. It belonged to my Great Aunt Effie, and she gave it to my mother when she bought a new one. When I moved out of the house, my mother thought she was mailing me my radio; it was about ten years newer than my Great Aunt’s radio. But she grabbed my Great Aunt’s instead, and so there you have it.
This is your basic AM/FM countertop model featuring a faux wood finish with fabric covering the speaker. It’s called a “Realistic MTA 8, and here’s what it looks like.
It’s not an antique; it’s just old and worn. It has three knobs on it and they all work fine. Over the years I’ve splattered cake batter, spaghetti sauce and coffee on it. No matter — the thing just wipes off. Like the old battle-scarred coffee pot, it’s seasoned. The value is beyond sentimental, however. The radio just works. Think “Energizer Bunny.” I bought myself a nice HD radio not too long ago, and that lasted for a year before it quit. Not this baby.
I’m a radio junkie and this thing is always playing. It produces a nice sound. Sometimes I have to wind the cord around a cabinet door to make an aerial antenna to get better reception, but that’s okay. I listen to baseball and hockey games on it, and news and music, and Car Talk on the weekends, and sometimes I carry it around the house with me, like when I’m painting a room. Usually, though, it just stays in its spot on the counter, and I just turn up the volume so I can hear it all over the house. No, I’m not deaf; I just don’t want to miss anything. There are times when I talk to it, well, not to the radio so much as to the person I’m listening to at that moment. I might be chuckling at a funny bit, or cheering, responding to the play-by-play announcer at a game, or presenting my humble views to the players and coaching staff in a calm but firm way after a particularly harrowing play, or perhaps quietly and oh-so-gently I’m offering my considered opinion to the politician being interviewed. Or I might be yelling and screaming, but I try not to let the dog hear me swear too much.
I’m thinking about buying one for every room, and so I checked on ebay and there they were, for fifteen bucks apiece! I think my Great Aunt would approve. Heck, it’s probably what she paid. Perhaps I should pick them up for the kids as Christmas presents, too, if there are enough to go around, because then they can boast that they have a Great Great Aunt Effie radio. That’s just cool.
With that problem solved, I’ll just have to find out who wants a dented coffee pot.
October 20, 2013