Pros: Poetic; responsible
Cons: Not what I expected; expensive for its size
Rating: 3 out of 5
First published 5/19/2001
Every now and then I end up with the weirdest books. Cafe Nation is one of them. On the one hand, I was disappointed by it – it wasn’t the book I expected from the description I’d read, and it isn’t a book that particularly fascinated me. On the other hand, there’s some neat stuff and some good attitudes in this book, and I imagine there are quite a few people who would really enjoy it. Here is part of the description of the book that I originally found:
Coffee … has been used for centuries by mystics of many cultures to heighten the senses, sharpen mental acuity, and promote creative and intuitive thought. This book presents a coffee divining method that … is updated to make it more relevant to contemporary life. … This book is filled with fascinating coffee lore, recipes for delicious magic coffee potions, and an analysis of coffee’s impact on cultures around the world.
So Why’d I Buy It Anyway?
I’m still on my kick of looking for the ultimate coffee recipe book – you know, lots of innovative, delicious, and wimpy ways to prepare coffee. I was looking around Barnes & Noble’s cooking section and happened to stumble across this book. It sounded really interesting and it was less than $10 (although it turned out to be pretty small for $10 – 5.5×6″ and 212 pages, softcover), so I decided to add it to my cookbook order.
Okay, I wasn’t particularly interested in magic potions (unless they taste good – mmmmm), but I adore folklore and mythology. When I was a kid I used to spend whole days at the library reading the mythology books, so the idea of reading up on the coffee folklores of various cultures appealed to me.
That Folklore Stuff
Maybe it’s just the particular folklore books I used to read, but when I think of folklore I think of ancient and exotic cultures around the world. I don’t think of eighteenth-century coffeehouses, or gossipy women reading their coffee grounds in nineteenth-century parlors. There are a couple of brief, interesting stories in here (like what Pope Clement VIII is supposed to have said when he first tasted coffee), but by and large this is pretty modern stuff. I found this disappointing.
There are neat quotes about coffee sprinkled throughout, however, some of it modern, others from fourteenth-century Arabic poetry, and so on. An entire poem is used to give instructions for brewing Turkish coffee (amusingly followed by a normal, “Far Less Eloquent Recipe” – the author does have a sense of humor).
There are interesting bits of coffee history, which seem to largely concentrate on American history (such as cowboys and things like the Boston Tea Party) with occasional brief forays into other countries’ histories (particularly when relating stories of the discovery of coffee). There are some amusing folk remedies, such as the cold cure that includes thread and human hair (ick!).
The writing style is somewhat poetic, full of wanderings, meanderings and musings. This is a book for picking up now and then when you’re in a relaxed mood and want something interesting to read. It isn’t a book that I was able to pick up and devour in one sitting, despite its brevity. The author has a good, common-sensical attitude toward things: “Whether or not coffee was actually mentioned in the Bible is less relevant than the fact that someone considered it significant to speculate that it might be.”
The Magic Stuff
I rather like the attitude of Ms. Posey in her approach to magic. It’s all about responsibility, thinking things through, and concentrating on your long-term goals. It’s about developing yourself in good ways, not about a quick money or romance fix: “Magick isn’t about simple wish fulfillment but about transforming yourself.” If I were into potions and spells and such, I’d definitely go for Ms. Posey’s take on them.
The book doesn’t assume that you have any background in magic, but I think it would have much to offer even to a seasoned practitioner. In here you’ll find purifying baths, ritual space preparation, raising energy, and some words on simplifying things if your life is hectic and busy.
After that come the potions and spells: potions to strengthen or attract love, for purification or protection, prosperity, healing, studying, depression, sleeplessness, caffeine addiction (!) (which leads me to point out my one mild aesthetic problem with some of these things – some of the bits you speak aloud are a bit too heavy on the rhymes, making them sound… childish?), seasonal rites, and so on.
Perhaps the greatest subject in here, however, and the one that is by far the most thoroughly covered, is that of divination. Various methods are discussed. They range from the stunningly simple to the very complex and detailed. Whatever your preference, you’ll probably find it here.
So, ultimately, what do I think of this book? On the plus side it’s kind of poetic and has some amusing stories in it. The divination methods have had a lot of thought put into them and seem quite usable. Some of the potions even look quite delicious! On the minus side, it wasn’t the kind of folklore I was looking for (the fault of the publisher’s text, however, for misleading me, not the fault of the author). I’m just not that interested in cowboy history or Victorian coffee parlors. Neither am I particularly interested in prosperity potions. The book doesn’t really hold my attention for any good length of time, and it’s pretty expensive for its size.
Therefore I give it three stars. If you’re more in tune with the subject matter of the book it might turn out to hold your attention better. And if you can find it on sale the price might be worth it. So keep that in mind when you’re deciding whether or not to buy it.