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A Steaming Cup of Nuthin'

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espress_1.jpgYou know what's a bigger scam than the Snuggie, the Ab-Rocker or any other product out there that seems like a good idea, until you actually get it in your home?

The espresso/cappuccino maker.

How many of you have one? Now, how many of you regularly use it?

That's what I thought.

In an article last summer in The Advocate, then presidential candidate Barack Obama's deputy national campaign manager Steve Hildebrand related a joke Obama made to him when the two were discussing the California Supreme Court's original ruling in favor of marriage equality: "He said that if my partner Mike and I went to California to get married, he and Michelle would give us a lovely espresso maker. One of the 14 extras that they got for their wedding."

I wonder how many of those espresso makers made it to the White House with the Obamas.

A couple years ago, after I had paid down most of the balance on my Bloomingdale's card, I decided to finally go for it and purchase a home espresso maker. "Why, I'm Italian," I thought, "I have to have one." Besides, the only coffe house in my new neighborhood closed its doors at the unheard of hour of 9 p.m. (I had previously lived in Lakeview, where even on weekenights the coffee places don't close until 10 or 11 p.m.)

And just think of how it would make my life more interesting and urbane.

"An espresso-based drink on a Sunday night would be the perfect compliment to my back porch cigar as I wound down the preceeding week and looked to the next," I told myself, as well as, "My dinner parties will be the hieght of La Dolce Vita as I make an array of espresso-based drinks for my guests to go along with my homemade biscotti and the staggeringly witty conversation that will ensue."

Not quite.

I then tried to justify the purchase on a more practical level. "Why, I work nights -- I can make myself a homemade Americano to have at my desk when I start my midnight shift." Yeah, that worked.

At this point, my sleek and powerful Krups espresso/cappuccino maker is about as useful as the vintage Underwood and Royal typewriters I have considered purchasing over the past few years. A nice visual accent to the home but otherwise useless.

Maybe for some of you the home espresso maker gets the workout it deserves. It's on your ample kitchen counterspace and you regularly use it to make espresso, cappuccino, lattes or more exotic drinks. Not me. Since my kitchen space is adequate but not abundant, it is relegated to the hutch, under constant threat of relegation to the pantry, next to the French press (which I do occasionally use on those aforementioned Sunday nights), the George Foreman grill and the pancake griddle.

It's remarkably labor-intensive, getting yourself a cup of espresso from a home machine: there's the grinding of the beans, the tamping of the grounds, the measuring of the water, the making sure the dining room lights are turned off so you don't blow a fuse (OK, maybe that's just in my apartment), then the waiting for the trickle of espresso, not to mention the accompanying work if you want to add steamed milk or froth. Then there's the cleanup of the grounds, the frothing nozzle, wrapping up the cord and putting the machine away, sheesh. It's much les stresful just to bring out the French Press.

I'm surprised that espresso makers haven't been aded to those signs you see on the doors of thrift shops that state what the shops will NOT take (such as computer monitors, dot-matrix printers, TVs, used underwear).

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Janet Rausa Fuller

Sun-Times Food editor Janet Rausa Fuller is always thinking about her next meal.

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This page contains a single entry by James Scalzitti published on March 8, 2009 3:41 AM.

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