The coffee police
I am just on the way back from Rome, where we have been doing the final weekend's filming for the new Romans series (which I THINK will be broadcast in April on BBC2). We are a happy crew ably managed by the producer, Caterina, who is brilliant at everything . . . except we do have one area of domestic controversy, and that's in the coffee department.
Caterina (on the right) is Italian and you will probably already have guessed what this might be. It relates to the time of the day when it is appropriate to drink cappuccino. The truth is she goes a bit pale, and looks as disapproving as she can muster, when any of us order a cappuccino after about 11.30. From then on, it should be espresso only -- or if milk has to be there, then it should be a macchiato.
It is, of course, one of the old "English in Italy" problems, and it isnt really soluble.
On the one side are the "Inglesi Italianizzati", who though busting for a nice frothy cappuccino, really wont be seen dead with anything but an espresso. When I was a graduate student in Rome, I knew plenty of those, "gone native". And I always suspected that they went back to their rooms and brewed themselves up a nice frothy,milky cappuccino in the afternoon when no-one was looking.
The other option is to say sod it (like Prof Woolf above)... I want a cappuccino, so I'll bloody have it. But that means braving the pained expression of Caterina -- and, as happened this lunchtime, the slight sneers of the waiters at the snack bar.
I have to say that as I've got older, I veer more to option 2 than option 1. But I have also tried to work out why the post-11.30 cappuccino feels so dreadful to a bona fide Italian. And I think I have finally got the analogy.
Imagine you were taking an Italian friend out to lunch. It came to the pudding, and they said to the waiter "What I'd really like is a bowl of cornflakes" .
You'd look as amazed (shocked/frosty) as Caterina does with us on the cappuccino beat.
And all this makes me wonder what Indian waiters at Indian restaurants have to put up with. When we order a combination of what is to them Christmas pudding, mixed with chippolatas, apple sauce and creme brulee... they've just learned to shut up and put up, I guess.
(Though does anyone remember the old Gan Path near Kings Cross (it gets a name check here).. the cheapest restaurant in the Good Food Guide for a while. Closed more than a decade ago. But there the waiters could be pretty stern on their customers and did adopt a Caterina-like expression from time to time, and made it quite clear your were making a culinary faux pas).