Lincoln, Bush, and the Presidential Cappuccino

It’s not often that I’m moved to quote Abraham Lincoln during the course of a normal day. Not only do most of my daily activities fail to reach the minimum levels of gravitas to justify ‘pulling a Lincoln’, I fear that quoting American Presidents might come across as pretentious.

One option might be to downgrade my President of choice and chuck a few quotes from the lesser leaders into my daily routine, just to gauge the response.

George W Bush, for example.

He once said: “you can fool some of the people all of the time, and those are the ones you want to concentrate on.”

To get the full ‘Dubya’ affect you probably need to say that with a smirk on your face. It’s cynical, and knowing, but also quite funny.

As a throwaway line in the workplace it would strike just the right note. From a President, past or present, it sounds like a tacit admission that the people have been hoodwinked into giving you the job. And that you’re feeling quite smug about it.

It’s all about context, isn’t it?

With some further research, however, I’ve stumbled across an absolute corker from President Lincoln which is not only homely enough for everyday use, but would have been appropriate on at least three separate occasions this week already.

You see, I’m a man who knows the difference between a good brew and a bad brew, to an almost obsessive degree. And I recently stopped for a cup of coffee in Cumbria.

Cumbria is a fine county in many ways – it’s rural, traditional, picturesque, and straightforward. So straightforward, in fact, that across large swathes of it they remain suspicious of espresso coffee, and all it’s derivative drinks. To the average Cumbrian, coffee comes in granules and is not something you should ever spend £2.50 per cup on.

But I forgot this.

I stumbled out of the cold into one particular country café and ordered a cappuccino; it was mid-morning, and a frothy pick-me-up was in order.

Three minutes later a well-meaning waitress delivered to my table a drink fundamentally lacking in the basic characteristics of a cappuccino. My three year old boy can do better with bath water and bubble bath.

I looked at it, stirred it, sniffed it, and spotted the tell-tale granular residue of Nescafe.

I was on the receiving end of a “cappuccino” made with instant coffee. My heart sank. “Is that even a thing”, I might have said, had I been twenty years younger.

Had I been on the ball, I could have quoted the words of Abe Lincoln: “If this is coffee, please bring me some tea; but if this is tea, please bring me some coffee.”

As a concession to the fact that I was in Cumbria I could have delivered the even more straightforward version: “whatever this is, please take it away and bring me the opposite.”

I settled for standing calmly, drink untouched, and backing quietly out of the café. And then the county. Never to order coffee in Cumbria again.

No amount of presidential gravitas was going to rescue that drink.





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