Cappuccino: Monk's Hood or Just Good?
“Wake Up And Smell The Cappuccino!” ~ The Dorfman Archives
The two years I spent in Italy in the 1970s marked in some ways the best
times of my life. I was a student in a small Umbrian city, (Perugia, where
they make all that wonderful candy that does all those not so wonderful
things to your teeth, but who cares). There I learned more from living
each day than I ever gleaned from any version of Dante's Inferno and / or
Paradiso. The ways of the world are universal; the human element
uniting all of us with a common thread. Italian men, however, representative
a particular work in progress I shall call the Peacock Syndrome. I wish to
acknowledge that this condition is often found in men of all ethnic
backgrounds, persuasions and nationalities as well, but in smaller
degrees. (Women, Italian and otherwise, have other problems). My point
will be illustrated with a picture that hopefully will likewise need one
thousand words nor ignite the cosmopolitan masculine world against
I will never forget a February morning in Perugia when I spied from my
warm perch a young Italian man sipping an expresso at a café on the
town's main street, Corso Vanucci. (Maybe it was really anti-freeze he
was drinking. Who knows?) Anyway, it was a memorable sight because
he was immediately directly opposite me, but OUTSIDE, despite the freezing
temperatures and chopping winds that ripped through the tablecloth.
Still, the handsome devil wore no coat. His shirt was open down to his
waist as if it were high August. Was he not the proud peacock showing
off so that passing women could not fail to notice the multitude of virile
hairs (peacock feathers) that had frozen upon his chest? That image has
never left me, nor has my love for Italian culture and cappuccino, that
frothy confection of milk and expresso topped with whipped cream and
sprinkled with cinnamon!
My adventures in this charming city were not limited to Italian men,
although I did experience la Dolce Vita in my own particular way. My
sense of bad timing originated here where I tasted my first cappuccino
some three weeks before I had to return to America. The latteria (dairy
store) was hidden behind a small narrow street (calle) that I discovered
one day completely by accident. To make things worse, it was the best
cappuccino I ever tasted. The cream was scrumptious and I often had
two or three cappuccinos in one sitting just to down some more of it. I
even commented to a fellow student that I would have done just as well
plastering the contents directly onto my hips and thighs instead of
drinking it, as that was where it was headed anyway!
Where did this wonderful beverage come from? Coffee originated in the
Ottoman Empire and was first introduced to the West by Italian traders.
At first, Pope Clement VII was urged by his advisors to consider this
favorite drink of infidels a threat. After he tasted it, however, he
succumbed to a prerogative that women have relied on for years: he
changed his mind. Pope Clement actually baptized the delicious drink,
making it an acceptable Christian beverage. No one knows for sure
exactly where cappuccino came from, but there are a few sneaky
suspicions. The most popular belief is that the drink gets its name from
the robes and cowl of The Capuchin Monk's habit. How so, say you?
Well, read on.
The Capuchin order of friars played an important role in restoring
Catholicism to Reformation Europe. Its Italian name came from the long,
pointed cowl or cappuccino, derived from capuccio, meaning hood.
Capuchin was later used as the name (first recorded in English in 1785)
for a type of monkey with a tuft of black cowl-like hair. The first use of the
word cappuccino in English is recorded in 1948. Whether or not this
excellent beverage was invented by the Capuchin monks is unknown. It
is a fact however, that a properly prepared cappuccino of expresso and
steamed milk leaves a brown ring along the rim of the cup much like the
edge of the monk's cowl. (Does this mean there is still hope for the ring
around my bathtub to become famous?)
Have you ever wonder exactly how Cappuccino is made? Well, the
basis for any cappuccino worth its salt (or grinds) is a strong blend of
Expresso coffee with added milk or frothy cream topped with chocolate
powder. The correct proportions are 1/3 expresso, 2/3 froth. To produce
the froth, fill a small jug to 1/3 with fresh milk. Insert the expresso
machine-frothing arm to just below the surface and turn on the steam,
gradually lowering the jug but keeping the arm in place. Add half of the
froth into the expresso coffee and sprinkle with cocoa powder or grated
chocolate. Add the rest of the froth and top with more cocoa. (If you do it
right, the process might never end.)
Cappuccino is more than just a coffee or a flavor or a process. Now one
can find chocolate cappuccino cookies and even lollipops that can offer
an authentic cappuccino experience even to toddlers! Whatever you the
drink fancy or plain, with chocolate or cinnamon experience even to
toddlers! Whether you take the drink fancy or plain, with chocolate or
cinnamon or just plain cocoa powder, cappuccino is a delight that
should be enjoyed often. It is unique to the Italian culinary culture and
can not help but force even the most unimaginative among us to
contemplate misty Roman afternoons and at least one balmy bistro
Courtesy of Dream Ship Coffees, Teas and Treasures
Classic Almond Cappuccino
2 ounces cold milk
2 oz. hot expresso 1/2 oz. Almond syrup (orgeat)
Ground nutmeg for dusting
Steam the syrup and milk together and allow it to sit.
Prepare the expresso and pour into 6-oz. cup.
Gently add the hot steamed milk until the cup is about 2/3 full.
Spoon the light foam over the top of the hot cappuccino to form a peak
and dust with nutmeg.