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Wednesday, April 11, 2018

DENNIS PATRICK: IS COFFEE REALLY A FOOD GROUP?

We are a family of coffee drinkers. Everyone drinks coffee. With or without; hot or cold; morning, noon and night there is always coffee on hand.

“Let’s have coffee” is a cross-generational appeal that fits somewhere between a war cry and a mating call. When the word goes out the world stops.

A close family member (no, not my son) actually has a coffee niche in his home. There in the corner of his family room is something of a sanctuary resembling an altar. No kidding. Arranged on a coffee stand is an elegant coffee pot, an espresso maker, a coffee grinder, and an assortment of utensils, cups and filters.

No, he doesn’t worship Goddess Java. Perish the thought. Only as a joke do I refer to his niche as an altar. The clock on the wall over the coffee stand testifies otherwise. He has displayed a gaudy, eye-catching neon clock with a 1950s logo “Coffee 5 cents a cup.”

More to the point, his passion for coffee has made him something of a coffee aficionado.

I usually take a moment to bait him a little when we get together. He takes the bait like a good sport. For both our sakes, he possesses a healthy sense of humor unlike the grouchy demeanor of some other family members. He can take a ribbing and come back kidding.

“So, coffee is a food group, right?” He can see my tease coming a mile off.

“Well, not exactly,” he responds. “But it should be.” I threw down the gauntlet and he accepted my challenge. That his response is even half-serious eggs me on. From here on it is tit for tat.

“Now be honest,” I chide him, “does the coffee industry target children in order to expand their market share? Sorta like the tobacco industry? They had their Joe Camel. Does the coffee industry have their burrow named Juan Pepito? That would hook the kids, wouldn’t it?”

This fellow usually takes things rather seriously. That’s why he’s fun to kid.

“In fact,” he begins, “most studies indicate that caffeine has no adverse health consequences for either adults or children. To set the record straight, a 1992 study published in Clinical Pediatrics shows no clear adverse effects in normal children.”

I love it. He’s so defensive.

“True,” he continues, “the coffee industry markets to young adults, but not to children. Anyway, caffeine is not addictive. Coffee drinkers do not exhibit any of the characteristics of chemical dependency found in drug-dependent addicts. To make my point, the most recent edition of the ‘Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders’ does not list caffeine with drugs that cause dependency. If it were otherwise, then soft drinks, tea, chocolate, and non-prescription pain relievers would have to be classified as drugs.”

Oh boy. His esoteric response tends to parry my questions. This fellow is a regular walking encyclopedia when it comes to coffee. When he sees my tease coming that is his cue to unload on me.

I try once more.

“Too much coffee will cause cancer, won’t it?” Surely he would trip up on this one.

“No,” he said as he began his homily. “The American Institute of Cancer Research and the World Cancer Research Fund reported in 1997 that evidence suggests that regular consumption of coffee has no significant relationship with the risk of cancer. Just the opposite is true. A 1998 report in the ‘American Journal of Epidemiology’ indicates that consuming four or more cups of coffee a day has shown a protective effect against colon cancer. There have been even more studies since then.”

“Now, let me ask you a question,” he counters with a twinkle in his eye. “Do you have a bee in your bonnet or something?”

“Naw,” I answer coyly, “I’m just funnin’ with you. I don’t have a bee in my bonnet.”

Friendly teasing knows its own limits. Overdone, it can cause a rift. Enough is enough. I back off. The last thing I want to do is to be the cause for anyone in the family to get their knickers in a twist.

 

Dennis M. Patrick can be contacted at (JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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