My Mom is close to turn 100th, next April 21 she will celebrate her 99th birthday. She lived through the two World Wars and witnessed the destruction and discomfort that they brought to common people especially in Europe. She often tells me stories that can hardly be found in the history books. These are stories of everyday life and people’s struggles for survival. Everything was rationed and some items had become extremely rare and were found only on the black market. One of these items was certainly coffee and people learned to substitute it with other products. During WWII, my family – Dad, Mom and my older brother since I was born immediately after the end of the war – had to adapt and use chicory or finely grinded dried figs to enjoy a cup of ‘coffee’. During the Nazis’ occupation, coffee became a precious and expensive item and was often used in exchange for other products. In Poland, a certain Amon Leopold Göth, born in Vienna, Austria, in 1930, who became a member of the Austrian branch of the Nazi Party, in 1942, ordered the Jewish council of Szczebrzeszyn, Poland, to pay 2,000 zloty and 3 kilograms of coffee as payment for the cost of the ammunition that would soon be used to execute the local Jewish people. Also in the USA, the strong demand for coffee by U.S. troops during World War II led to a shortage and the general public was subject to coffee rationing. Soldiers were issued instant coffee from Maxwell House in their ration kits. When the US troops finally landed in Italy, they brought with them instant coffee, cigarettes, chocolate and Boogie-Boogie. The origins of the so-called American coffee are also to be searched in those years. When I was a child, in the early ‘50s, my parents would send me to buy coffee by the pound and the only difference between one type and another of coffee was their price. Coffee was sold as whole beans and it was one of my favorite tasks grinding fresh coffee’ by hand’, that is with the old ‘macina caffe’’ which consisted of a box with a small drawer to insert coffee beans and a level which was turned clockwise by hand. I will never be able to forget the smell and the flavor of that coffee. As a brewer, my Dad would use the legendary ‘Napoletana’ or Neapolitan flip coffee pot which is a drip brew coffee maker for the stove top. Unlike a Moka Express, a Napoletana does not use the pressure of steam to force the water through the coffee, relying instead on gravity. With a Napoletana, my Mom would tell me, some people tried other kind of ‘coffee’, from wood dust to dirt! What people would do for a ‘good’ cup of coffee! As for me, in the morning, for breakfast, I usually had my ‘Caffe e Latte’ with a slice of toasted bread – from the oven, since the toaster was unknown – with butter and jam or just granulated sugar. As a snack – merenda in Italian – at times my Dad would make me ‘un uovo battuto’ – a beaten egg – with sugar and some coffee from his Napoletana to dilute the cream. When the Bialetti Moka Express became popular, my Dad kept on using his Napoletana while my brother and I chose the new way and our lives became easier. Today, I can’t wait to spend precious time with my Mom during my visits to Rome where she lives; enjoy a good cup of coffee together and listening to more stories from those years.
Please, visit the following links: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/help-me-celebrate-mamma-tina/set_up