Frank Chen

Frank Chen

the essence of the paper cup

I've always enjoyed drinking coffee out of paper cups.

Back in my college days, I had this professor who would walk into the lecture hall five minutes late with a paper cup of coffee. He'd always have that paper cup and he was always five minutes late.

For some odd, unexplainable reason, I really liked this image. A professor, balancing this almost-too-small of a cup of coffee, walking into the lecture hall day after day at the same time (late) with no hiccups. It made me want to be a professor, although, I can say now that these feelings were most likely from the glamour of the profession.

Either way, this paper cup image stuck with me, and over time, I noticed that I liked paper cups myself. But why? They're pretty much single-use, destined to end up in a landfill somewhere, soggy after several uses, and are actually not 100% paper. There's a thin layer of plastic on the inside of every paper cup that allows it to be "waterproof". Yeah, you can't even compost these mothercuppers.

Back to finding an explanation. Going back to my earliest recollection with that professor, this mystical, uncorrelated observation of being late and having a paper cup led to the story that this particular professor had the time abundance to actually stop and buy a cup of coffee. Everyday. That tells me that maybe he valued convenience, or at the very least, enjoyed the atmosphere of the coffee house that he visited. Or perhaps it's more of a virtue signal of not having to worry about fiddling with sippy cups, plastic snap tops, and the dread of washing one more thing at home. Or, it's just that the whole process feels simple. Nothing to wash. Convenient. The ambiance of a coffee house. Getting pretty coffee art. Talking to baristas. All of it is feel-good vibes.

I guess I'm okay with all of those explanations. The next time you do get coffee in a paper cup, drink it capless. Part of the experience is sticking your nose in the cup.

cooking over fire

A couple of weekends ago, I did some outdoor cooking with friends. The aim was to cook over a real fire.

Long story short, it was hard. It took three of us to get it right.

One guy was tending the fire, the other was monitoring hot and cold zones, and I was doing a combination of monitoring temperature zones and moving the meat around.

Fire is a living thing. You have to feed it, tend to it, stack the logs right, stack the right size of log, keep it burning at the temperature you want, oxygenate the burn, move some embers around for low n' slow cooking … the list goes on.

We ended up with delicious grilled chicken and steamed fish, but man, it was tough. It would take several times to get all of that right if I were doing it myself.

That being said, being outdoors and cooking over a real fire is awesome. My only gripe was that I forgot to scale the goddamn fish before cooking it. Rookie mistake. We got tender flaky fish, but there was a lot of spitting that night.

coffee greed revisited

If you read my post about how to find the way you like things even if it involves modifications (aka coffee greed), we left off at "two macchiatos in one cup" (no, not a dirty joke, put that shit away) 🥁.

A couple of baristas have modified my order to actually be a cortado or gibraltar with one or two extra shots (triple/quadruple cortado/gibraltar). This gives a little bit more milk to offset the overly sour quadruple macchiato. Whaddaya know, they have names for these things. 😂

Depending on the place though, the quadruple cortado is still slightly too sour. Perhaps a quadruple flat white is the next call of action, but only if my heart holds out. 😬

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