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October 27, 2016
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Lest We Forget

Time and distance have also served to blunt not just periods of psychological distress, but also some of the everyday things I used to savor before.


As in, before I was diagnosed with diabetes.


Before I had diabetes, I didn't have to worry about eating a hamburger, pizza, Fettuccini Alfredo, or my favorite restaurant "cajun pasta" dishes. Now, any version I make at home is significantly modified to eliminate refined flours, reduce fats, and raise the vegetable count. You can hardly find the pasta in any of my "pasta" dishes.


Before I had diabetes, breakfast was a pint of orange juice and a bagel with cream cheese. Now, bagels are eaten in parts, and orange juice is a special-occasion item: a quarter bagel is one carbohydrate exchange, and a cup of orange juice is a huge portion of the daily calorie count.


Before I was unemployed, I didn't have to worry about balancing the cost of salad greens against the cost of a bag of flour or, as happens too frequently, a bag of the rolls The Other Half wants for his lunch.


But there was a "before" way before any of this -- a before I'd almost forgotten until Allison Blass mentioned her inability to find Peet's coffee on the East Coast.


I dare anyone under the age of thirty-five to recall the decadence of a slice of Rowinsky's cheesecake -- your choice of several flavors of cake so rich it was hard to finish a sliver, garnished with a selection of fruit toppings. The owners retired well before the cheesecake bar was mentioned in an episode of St. Elsewhere, and the Mt. Auburn Street Mall -- the converted Victorian townhouse in which it was located -- burned down about a decade later.


Also gone from the Boston area is The Coffee Connection -- a small chain of kiosks in which one could purchase a cup of coffee or espresso, freshly-roasted beans, or coffee brewing equipment. Its largest Boston-area location was a caf located in a converted parking garage in Harvard Square. The caf was our splurge breakfast venue of choice when I was in university; we'd order freshly-squeezed orange juice, warm crossants; the freshly-roasted Coffee-of-the-Day was presented tableside in individual French presses which were known by their brand-name, Mlior. About seventeen years ago, The Coffee Connection was bought out by Starbucks.


Rowinsky's and The Coffee Connection are still the standards by which I judge cheesecakes and cafs.


At the time I was in uni, Au Bon Pain was still a small chain of crossanteries which sold several styles of French bread and crossants. There was no coffee, no meal menu, no place to sit and eat what one has purchased. Years later, when they expanded out from the Boston area and became a full-service caf, the coffee they served was sourced from The Coffee Connection. After the Starbucks buyout, Au Bon Pain purchased their coffee beans from Peet's Coffee & Tea, which was still relatively unknown on the East Coast.


And so it comes full circle: Peet's to Au Bon Pain to The Coffee Connection to Rowinsky's. And then to other Boston-area places such as Stop & Shop -- which has been in my central New Jersey neighborhood for years -- and Bread and Circus, which was bought out by Whole Foods Market. Which, like The Coffee Connection, roast-dates its coffee.


Lest We Forget... just like the page in so many school yearbooks. Plus a change, plus c'est la mme chose.

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