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Friday, November 29, 2013

The Taste of Blue. John von Daler

                    Karen #Blixen loved the color blue, especially the light Nordic blue that rises out of the great Greenlandic ice floes (which incorporate it together with a mystical touch of turquoise in sheet after sheet of frozen water), then appears in the Swedish flag and finally finds a permanent home in Danish royal porcelain. She uses it in the eyes of a beautiful figurehead on a ship out of Elsinore and in the porcelain that a poor, old lady spends her life buying up, just to find the color of the sea around the boat where she had spent two weeks as a young girl alone with a young sailor after a shipwreck.

                That love for a symbol lost to the senses must also have followed my father through his long life. I never saw him without some kind of a coffee theory or experiment going on. A truck from Harrods would arrive at his home in Surrey and out would pop new coffee machines and roasted beans in small sacks (must not get stale!). Then he would go to his kitchen and boil and grind and taste - though always with the result that his longing got extended. He never made a cup that satisfied him completely.
                I think about the life that he lived after his teenage years, in Venezuela, the U.S.A. and England, and try to imagine what started this hopeless search. I am drawn back to his birthplace, Vienna, in about 1925. The young man in a three-piece suit goes into one of the cafés that had sprouted up with the help of Franz-Josef's hungry officers, who after frugal meals with their emperor would haste into Vienna's coffeehouses to eat an extra snack, talk politics, and read the papers that hung on the walls on wooden poles. The young man lights a cigaret and with a blasé gaze selects a paper from the wall, checks the room for beautiful women, greets an acquaintence from Vienna University and sits down to drink a cup of coffee. He does not have a care in the world.
                No wonder that coffee never tasted the same! What with World War II and the complications that that conflagration brought to his life, he never came home again. The next time he tasted coffee in Vienna was in the late nineteen fifties. The coffee might have been the same, but he was no longer the same person.
                So he sought and sought and never again found that light-blue coffee taste, that elusive, fly-by-night, unfathomable symbol.




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