Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Jews, Bagels and a Caramel Macciato

A shot of espresso, then two pumps of vanilla. Fill it the rest of the way up with steamed milk, leaving just enough room for the whipped cream and caramel sauce. Deftly, I whip the cream into a perfect spiral on the surface of the drink. Then I take out the small tube of caramel sauce, shake it a few times, and lay it down in a checkerboard pattern over the whipped cream. Another perfect drink.

“Caramel Macciato up!” I yell, as I slide the cardboard cup across the counter.

A Caramel Macciato is a work of art, really. It’s my favorite drink to make. It took me a long time to get it right – for the first few weeks my whipped cream would come out in lopsided blobs, with the caramel sauce welled up uselessly at the side. But I got plenty of practice, and eventually I came to pride myself in my caramel macciato skills. Two things really bother me, though – when someone starts drinking theirs without first looking at it, and when someone orders one without whipped cream.

I know it’s fattening and some people don’t need it. But it just looks so sad without the whipped cream, like it’s only half a drink. Plus the caramel can’t make patterns and pictures on the top – they sink in as soon as I squirt them out. Sometimes I make little sad faces with the caramel on drinks with no whipped cream, to show how the drink is feeling.

There are no more customers in line. This isn’t odd, really, it’s 9:30 on a Thursday and we usually get a bit of a slump anytime a class is starting. They’ll be back.

“Want me to go restock the coolers?” I ask my boss, Linda.

“Sure Hon,” she says, “You just do whatever ya think you should. I’ll give ya a holler if a need you,”

I take the little cart back to the stock room. The stock room is a big room, with shelves full of every kind of food or drink we serve, except whichever one we’re currently out of. I think there must be someone whose job it is to decide what not to order each week, because every week we’ll have an overabundance of most things and an absolute dearth of one particular item, and that is the item everyone will want. This week it’s cream cheese, which is unfortunate, because bagels are basically the only real food we serve, and who’s gonna want a bagel without cream cheese?

I wonder where the association between bagels and cream cheese began. I know bagels were invented by German Jews at some point roughly a hundred years ago. I don’t know why I know this, but I do. I wonder if these same Jews invented cream cheese? I wonder if, in Germany, under the Nazis, bagels were outlawed because they were Jewish, or if the Nazis tried to rewrite history so that the bagel was an Aryan invention. It must have sucked to be a seller of bagels back then, I muse. Or a seller of cream cheese.

I get my cart filled up with drinks and things and get back to the little booth just in time to see our next customer – Julie. I only know her name because I stole a glance at her credit card once when she was using it to pay for her drink. Julie comes in every Tuesday and Thursday morning at precisely 9:45 and orders a bagel with cream cheese and a tall skim latte. She usually gets a flavor shot, but never the same one twice. I think she’s trying to try them all. This is all I know about her. That, and the fact that she’s gorgeous.

I often wonder if Julie has a boyfriend. On the one hand, I mean how could she not? But I know from experience that what I consider beautiful is not necessarily what guys in general consider beautiful. Plus she’s quite, maybe kind of shy. A lot of guys don’t go out for that.

I wonder if she’s Jewish. She does look a little Jewish, and she always orders a bagel. But lots of people like bagels. Liking bagels doesn’t make you a Jew any more than liking pizza makes you Italian. Although not really because modern pizza is an American invention, but I digress. Anyway, I don’t think Julie is a particularly Jewish name.

As I move inside to start Julie’s drink, she surprises me – she orders a tall skim caramel macciato. I start in on the familiar steps – one shot espresso, two pumps of vanilla, all the way up to the whipped cream. I hesitate for a moment, picking up the caramel sauce. The checkerboard pattern seems too bland for a girl like Julie. Maybe I should make a heart? No, too sappy. Her name? That’s just creepy. My phone number maybe? That’d be classy, suave. Or just tacky. Plus I’m not even sure it would fit. I briefly consider a star of David, but that seems like a big risk.

“You ok there?” asks Linda.

“Fine,” I tell her. I settle on a smiley face, a nice, innocent design, and then put a little extra caramel around the edges so it doesn’t affect the taste. I put a lid on and hand it to her.

“Enjoy,” I say, as suavely as I can.

“Thanks,” she says, smiling. I sigh as she walks away. That right there is the highlight of my Thursdays, maybe of my whole week. How sad is that?

1 comment:

Marten said...

I know a Jewish girl named Julie. That said, you should write more for this guy. it feels like part of a bigger narrative, for some reason.