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I have personally found outsourcing hilarious since I’ve had to contend with it. When calling my bank for information on a credit card results in the guy on the other side (who sounds very much like my Bombay-raised uncle trying to inflect a Midwestern accent) asking me about where in India I’m from and where my parents are from in India, hilarity is just part of the equation. Apparently the powers that be in American mainstream media have picked up on that fact, and in a time where Indian culture has become the new “it’ factor, it is inevitable that outsourcing to India will play into movies and television shows.
I found it interesting that there is a movie called “Outsourced” and a new TV show called “Outsourced.” One is a spinoff of the other. The former was a movie that premiered at the Toronto film festival, the latter will be coming to NBC in the fall. Here is a preview of each:
Outsourced (TV series)
The movie seems charming enough, but I’m not thrilled about the TV series. I want to be excited, it’s an almost all-Indian cast. Yet they’re made to look like idiots, and play into all of the conventional stereotypes of Indian people. Granted yes, that’s the whole point of making a series about outsourcing–to poke fun at the concept itself–but it borders on equating the stereotypes with the culture, rather than using it as a means of disentangling one from the other.
Maybe they’ll take the show in a positive direction much like the movie, but at least based on the trailer, it just seems to be an opportunity to make fun of Indian people, not the concept of outsourcing. That being said, the one shining moment in the trailer for me was when the Indian guy was going on about grits in a perfect Southern accent (2:39 in the trailer). If the show sticks with humor about outsourcing rather than about Indian stereotypes, it could be pretty good. If it doesn’t, though, I’m not sure it’ll make it out of the starting gate.
Oh and for the record, there is no rule of thumb that states that Indian food as a whole is gross and gives people diarrhea. While I’ll admit, some Indian food doesn’t necessarily LOOK appetizing (think aloo palak or anything involving palak), it has something that a lot of other foods lack: flavor. If you can’t handle it, that’s your problem and your loss.
I first heard about Project Remix last year–or at least the collection of nascent ideas that would eventually become Remix–from one of the creators, who is also a good friend of mine. I was immediately sold on the idea, which was to create a site that provided resources and information to Desi (South-Asian) youth. A site created by the Indian youth for the Indian youth.
The official site launched recently, though it had already started generating buzz among our peers when it had made its first foray into the collective consciousness. Currently there are sections for cuts, cultural media, and articles. The cuts feature mixes used by various student groups and collegiate dance teams (bhangra, raas, Indian fusion, etc.) from across the country. Cultural media highlights video performances from various collegiate groups. The articles on Project Remix have been broken down into smaller categories and initiatives, devoted to everything from the arts to sports (currently I’m contributing to Team Innovate’s Neurobio series so be sure to check that out!). Examples of articles currently up on the website include my neurobio piece (an overview of neuroscience), a two-part series on biofuels, a review of Slumdog Millionaire, and a piece recounting a trip to Chennai to volunteer.
Project Remix is seeking new, fresh voices that can contribute to the site in any capacity. If you are a writer or blogger who is interested in appearing on the website, you can email projectremixny at gmail dot com. For any other questions, you can also send an email to the aforementioned address. The website is http://www.projectremix.org.
In addition, you can follow Project Remix on Twitter @ProjectRemix for updates.
We really are a bunch of celebrity-worshippers.
Don’t deny it, you know it’s true.
Our society is structured around which celebrity is marrying whom, who has children, who (heaven forbid) had a sordid affair, or an even more sordid divorce battle. Brangelina’s on Long Island, Lindsay’s between relationships, Britney’s being Britney, A-Rod’s being pretentious, etc. etc. Even political pundits and others who wouldn’t normally have (willingly) joined the fray have been dragged in. Everyone who has had a few seconds of fame in front of a camera or on a bestseller list is worthy of worship, as far as our society is concerned. Sometimes this brings out the more unsavory elements among us, i.e. the stalkers who can range from the harmless fans to the ones who would literally kill for attention (i.e. Reagan’s almost assassin/Jodie Foster stalker John Hinckley Jr.).
This is not limited to the United States or the Western World, each society has its own, worshipable elite. Shahrukh Khan is a veritable deity in India, and unsurprisingly, Amitabh Bachchan has actually been worshipped as one.
It is just a hair ridiculous, how much we may devote our time to checking the tabloids for the latest, juicy piece of gossip, and how we idolize people who aren’t that different from us (give or take a few million dollars of course). Some aren’t even that worthy of being idolized, like Kim Kardashian, Paris Hilton, and others who only have a hefty inheritance and a few sex tapes to their name.
With social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, accessing these celebrities is a much easier task. Twitter, especially, eliminates that wall of privacy between celebrities and their devoted throng of followers (for better or worse). Sometimes that means seeing a more human side of a celebrity that makes them feel a bit more real to us, sometimes it means revealing things about the inner workings of their mind that may turn us off to them.
I’m not one to celebrity-worship, and yet I still get just a tad excited when someone “famous” follows me on Twitter. Even though I’m not a fan of celebrity-worship, I idolize a few, although a select few. I think it’s in our nature to have idols, more as something to work towards. I still can’t wrap my head around people who idol worship just because “they’re hot.” That being said, here are my top 10 celebrities (and I use the term very loosely) I would LOVE to meet, and my reasons (in no particular order):
1. Keith Olbermann: My favorite Cornell alum, and possibly one of the most erudite people in the news business today. He has a knack for wearing his heart on his sleeve and showing his feelings about the state of affairs without foaming at the mouth like other similar figures (*cough* Bill O’Reilly *cough*).
2. Rachel Maddow: Takes news to a whole new level of awesome with her laid-back style. She’s also incredibly intelligent, obviously evidenced by her holding a Ph.D and being a Rhodes Scholar.
3. Robin Williams: Genius. I have not seen any actor who can be as wildly funny as he is, while also managing to nail serious roles just as well. Just watching his stand-up routines makes one realize just how ridiculously smart he must be to be able to string together so many (somehow relevant) thoughts together, reaching across disciplines and cultures within the course of maybe a few seconds.
4. Benjamin Carson: To put it simply, I want to be him, but I know I have a long road ahead if I even want to be half of what he is. He is unbelievably humble despite being so skilled at his job, as one of the world’s best pediatric neurosurgeons, and he only reached that position after a lifetime of hardship and discrimination. To fare so well in a field that is so risky speaks volumes about his abilities as a surgeon.
5. Vilayanur Ramachandran: If he doesn’t get a Nobel Prize, I will be thoroughly disappointed. His research on phantom limbs lead to a greater understanding of so-called “mirror neurons.” I highly recommend his book Phantoms in the Brain.
6. Hugh Laurie: Not just because he plays the best doctor on TV, but he also seems like a genuinely nice (and very smart) guy. I vaguely knew of him from a few episodes of Blackadder, but he has been brilliant as House M.D. There’s something about self-deprecating, pathologically understated, and sometimes borderline-inappropriate British humor that I love. He’s also a great pianist.
7. Dr. M. Balamuralikrishna: Undoubtedly one of the best Carnatic vocalists alive today, he has a sense of humility that serves to ground not only himself, but everyone around him. Humility is always a wonderful quality for anyone to possess, let alone people in the limelight. Extra cool fact: he’s very interested in music therapy. Anyone who recognizes the therapeutic significance of music is cool in my book.
8. Kal Penn: I’ll admit, I didn’t think he was that big of a deal, but I guess my prior opinion was colored by his less-than-cerebral character choices (though I LOVED Harold and Kumar). I saw him on Rachel Maddow’s show, and it goes without saying that he is an incredibly smart guy. He definitely has his head in the right place, opting for public service over acting when the opportunity presented itself. It’s great that the Asian-American community has such a famous face as the liaison between them and the White House. I’m not sure if Asian-American health issues are quite his domain, but it would be something well worth addressing (did a paper on it myself for a class).
9. Anthony Bourdain: Undoubtedly the one who gave the culinary experience its spine back after the Food Network lost it, perhaps in a pool of “e.v.o.o” (cannot stand Rachel Ray). Rough, rugged, well-read, and open to all possibilities (except vegetarian fare…something that I think he’s coming around to), he is the everyman’s chef.
10. Norah Jones: One of the few people in the music industry to have not sold out. She has such a beautiful, earthy voice coupled with her great piano-playing abilities, and she’s also probably one of the few people who keeps her music simple, but classy. As much as I love Christina Aguilera and Mariah Carey’s ability to add vocal flourishes and riffs with such ease (I’m guilty of trying to do that when I sing…and I’m even more guilty of failing when I try), sometimes it’s nice to just be straightforward.
And one more for good measure…
11. Russell Peters: Master of mimicry, accents, and general humor. A lot of comedians have a knack for nailing accents, but Russell Peters has a knack for integrating various cultural quirks into his act. No, he’s not a racist, he’s an equal-opportunist, picking on any and every group of people (including most notably, Indians). Why? We are all that diverse and sometimes when we look in with another pair of eyes, we can all be that bizarre. Sometimes we just need to laugh at ourselves.
Yes, noticeably absent are people from Bollywood/other Indian cinema. Why? Well I just don’t know what they’re like, they seem mostly full of fluff, and not much else. Maybe when I know more about them, I can make a better judgment call.
So I guess for me, I don’t care how much money a person makes, but a person’s intellectual worth is very important. I don’t mean just degrees and educational pedigree but a general understanding of the world around them. Equally important is one’s humility and devotion to the art or science that they are pursuing. If you can’t be humble, it doesn’t matter how much talent or knowledge you may have, you are not worth being idolized. Yet people will continue to idolize the most pointless people, because of their monetary worth, supposed good looks, and questionable talent.
I guess that’s just how society is, and will be.
Oh PETA, oh PETA, with your naked protests and fake blood and…sea kittens. You mean well, but you come across as so…strange. There are better ways to draw attention to the plight of animals, and to encourage vegetarianism.
Most of your protests seem to be something more along the lines of trench warfare, getting down and dirty in crafting your next move. You tend to go for the shock value, trying to get at people’s guts rather than their hearts, with some success. I can’t deny, many a vegetarian has been created after visiting your website or watching your protests. Nothing wrong with creating vegetarians, most became vegetarian after learning about the violent nature of the meat and poultry industry, and depriving the industry of that insatiable demand for meat (and I suppose fur and other animal-derived products) is the best way to reduce these practices. Yet you haven’t shied away from using violent (throwing fake blood at people wearing furs) and underhanded methods in expressing your discontent with the industry as a whole, which seems to defeat the purpose of PETA. People are, after all, animals too.
I think what set me off is this article from Newsday, about a PETA protest at an elementary school in Hempstead, a town on Long Island. It’s one thing to target adults, who are at a point in their lives where they have the ability to grapple with the (often horrifying) details of animal mistreatment. It’s another thing to target young children, who are still vulnerable and cannot necessarily handle all those realities. What a way to target them too! Protesters dressed up as circus animals and handed out coloring books entitled “Circuses are not fun for animals.” Seriously PETA? Do you know what the ramifications are of that? These kids are young, they can’t logically say “oh I won’t go to the circus because they mistreat animals” and not run through the other, dizzying possibilities that exist, real or imagined. Let kids have their childhood, leave it to the adults to initiate change…since they are in a better position to do that than the kids are. I’m surprised PETA hasn’t gone around to school cafeterias dressed up as farm animals with propaganda to inform kids that their hamburgers and hot dogs didn’t come from a quaint, little farm.
There are better ways to inform our children that what they think they know about animals in their day to day lives may not be what it seems. Why scare them, especially at such a young age? That is incredibly irresponsible. Please, if you’re not going to tone down the nature of your protests, at least keep them away from children. Leave it to their parents and teachers to choose whether to tell them or not, and how to tell them.
There is a Duane Reade (New York’s Walgreens or CVS equivalent) that we normally go to, not too far from my house. There used to be a small, high-end grocery and delicatessen right next door. It seemed, from the time it opened, that it had a pretty large following, so its closing about a year and a half ago was a bit unexpected. In that area, there tends to be a high turnover of stores and small restaurants, so I figured something new would take its place soon enough. Today, the space still has not been filled. I think that’s probably when I first started to get scared.
I think I’ve railed against Long Island a lot, when it comes to their feeling of invincibility owing to the region’s staggering wealth (with some exceptions). Three years ago, I rode on the LIRR through the whole summer, and the conversations among other passengers were mostly monotonous, vapid, or sometimes (on those rare occasions) riotously funny. Now, some of that conversation has turned somber, speculative, and almost scared (don’t get me wrong, there are still those who manage to carry on the vapid and stupid conversations in spite of anything else). I’m seeing large sales and discounts popping up to lure uncertain buyers. New York/Long Island mainstays (like Fortunoff and Steve and Barry’s) have filed for bankruptcy, and both are (or have completed) the process of liquidation. At the supermarket, the number of people using coupons seems to have increased exponentially. Even big-wig restaurant owners and chefs in the city (Mario Batali et. al.) have started to introduce special discounts at their restaurants that were normally only accessible to a select few with deep pockets (though I think the discounts were only through Restaurant Week, I don’t know about now).
On the other end of the spectrum, though, things like train fares (both commuter and subway) have been poised to increase over the next few months (I believe June is when the MTA is hiking up subway fares), making a more environmentally-sound (and sometimes, cost-effective) form of transportation more expensive. Schools are (still) hiking tuition costs at a rate that’s outpacing inflation (hooray for debt!), though some are increasing their financial aid packages in light of the fact that people are less likely to be able to pay for further education now than perhaps a few years ago.
So essentially I’m stuck in a slightly confused world where some are lowering costs, and others are increasing costs, and I’m struggling to keep whatever little money I have on my person. I try to cut down the amount of coffee I consume outside (such a hard habit to break) the number of times I eat out (another hard habit to break), and the number of times I have to go into the city, trying to plan my trips around off-peak hours for the sake of my wallet (though sometimes traveling at peak hours is unavoidable).
I was riding into the city on one of the Babylon LIRR trains and was listening to a conversation the two men sitting in front of me were having. They were speaking in hushed tones about how, given the state of affairs, crime was very likely to rise in the area. It was a rehashing of a similar conversation I had with my father. As much as I’d like to think that they are being incredibly paranoid, they’re all probably right.
Whenever I leave Penn Station, I walk out and make my way to Herald Square so I can catch the R or W to NYU. For the last couple of weeks, I’ve noticed that there is always one wheelchair-bound hobo at the corner of 34th and 7th uttering the same thing, over and over again. “Guys, can ya please help me get som’in ta’ eat?” Hobos are as part of the city as the Empire State Building and Times Square, but generally I never saw many, at least on the route I normally take through the city. Now–perhaps because there are more or because I’m taking greater notice of them–I have seen an increase in the number of hobos and street performers. At that corner just outside of Penn Station, I have seen on some days, two other wheelchair-bound hobos patrolling that intersection, hoping someone will give them something. The West 4th Station has seen an increase in performers who, sometimes, go to great lengths to attract attention (a full jazz band and a guy playing on a regular piano, for starters). The worst I have seen (at least to me) in recent weeks are the rise of teenage (or perhaps younger) street performers. On the F, I have seen on at least two occasions, a group of kids who breakdance on the moving train for money. I can’t deny that it’s entertaining, but I mean, they’re kids! I don’t know if this was their own choice, or their parents or friends put them up to this, but God forbid one of them fell and broke their neck…
Yet getting back to crime, in desperate times, desperate people will make desperate moves. More people are being driven into poverty, some ending up on the streets. It’s almost understandable that crime would be the next step. I don’t know if I can ever entirely trust the media coverage of local crimes, since it seems like crime activity in an area is always inflated for sensationalist value, but I guess it’s better to be safe than sorry. Usually, when I’m walking to and from the subway, I try to walk with someone. It’s not a terribly long walk, so I don’t mind walking alone sometimes, and usually the streets are very well-lit and well-trafficked. However, I have considered buying pepper spray, just in case I do end up staying later (for class, studying, or just in general), when the streets become less crowded. I’m not exactly a formidable figure, at 5’1″.
So at least here in the Long Island/NYC area, the recession has been moving in like a fog through empty streets, slowly and steadily. I suppose there’s no way to predict where this will take us, absolutely, but I hope that this will only be a temporary situation and that an upturn will start within the next few months. I can only hope.
…have you ever seen a fast food ad promoting vegetarian options? Even chains like Subway and Quiznos that are defined by customizable subs, tend to showcase the meatball subs and turkey subs and whatever else.
Ok this is coming from me, the one-time pescatarian (now lapsed), but hear me out.
Raising livestock has been shown to contribute heavily to greenhouse gas production (here is a link to Mark Bittman’s blog post on the subject on the New York Times website). We live in a country defined by the Whopper and the Big Mac. How are we going to cull our meat intake if we’re being bombarded by ads promoting meat?
Vegetarian does not just mean salads and tofu. There are so many options out there, even in fast food. Ok, perhaps McDonalds, Burger King, and Wendy’s are lacking (except for the occasional veggie burger in some locations), but sub chains and just plain, old delis allow you to make your own sandwiches. Get a cheese sandwich (I sometimes get American and Provolone), with mixed veggies, and a little light mayo and I guarantee it will be filling. You’re still getting protein from the cheese (one slice of American cheese has around 4.0g of protein, one slice of Provolone cheese has around 7.0g of protein). Usually, at least in Subway, you can get about 2 or 3 slices on one sub. For me (according to this site) I need about 43g of protein per day. I think given that one sandwich will have at least 15 or 16g of protein (not including bread and veggies), depending on how stingy the person making your sandwich is, I think that bodes well for the rest of the day.
Tofu, too, can be incredibly versatile, not just the lumpy, white, flavorless cubes people may be accustomed to. Fried tofu (though not as healthy as plain tofu) packs a lot of great flavor when added to dishes. I thrive on pad kee mao and tofu, even now.
I’m not saying go vegetarian, that would be hypocritical of me to do that. I’m saying cut meat out of at least one meal a day. Push for more advertising of vegetarian options, instead of the same old meat. We are a slave to the media, and since it’s probably hard to play hardball with huge fast food franchises, might as well make the media into a tool for beneficial change. Encourage franchises with the vegetarian options to showcase them in ads. Call for your favorite TV chefs to highlight more vegetarian dishes instead of the usual steak, chicken, and pork.
I love a lot of meat-based dishes as much as the next person, but we need to do what we can to keep our environment healthy. This is one of the few things in our hands. Let’s do what we can.
My friends were right. I like chicken just a little too much. Admittedly, I’m a little embarrassed to be writing this, especially after I had written this. In my defense though, it took me a year and a half to cave.
It wasn’t so much the need for chicken, or meat in general, that made me cave. It may have had something to do with the fact that my hair was falling in record amounts everyday, owing very much to a diet severely deficient in protein. Living on my own was fine, I could tailor my diet to ensure I was getting protein sans meat (minus fish). Yet living at home with a family that finds vegetarianism, or anything remotely like it, just a little bit alien made it difficult to meet my needs when the default meal almost always included chicken. It may have also had something to do with my mother bemoaning the fact that I was somehow betraying the family by treading the path towards vegetarianism. Yet in all actuality, maybe it may have been because I just missed meat. It proved incredibly difficult to stay away from it, especially chicken, since I had been raised on it since I was born. Maybe I’m just weak.
Am I a bad person for becoming (something close to a) vegetarian? Am I even worse for lapsing?
Nairs traditionally eat meat. Maybe that’s why it seemed so unusual to most of my family that I would eschew meat. I kept fish because I thought that keeping at least that form of protein would ensure that my diet was complete, and would ensure that I maintained my intake of omega-3s and vitamins more commonly found in fish than vegetarian sources. Keeping fish–a Malayalee staple–also kept my family somewhat at ease, though not completely.
So why did I even pursue a path to vegetarianism to begin with? There are a few reasons:
1. Animal cruelty: The news is full of stories of meat processing plants mistreating their animals. Mistreating is probably the understatement of the year. PETA and vegetarianism were ubiquitous in the crunchy-granola environment of Ithaca, so it did rub off on me a little.
P.S. PETA wants to rename fish “sea kittens” in an attempt to make the public view fish differently, and perhaps stop eating fish. What do you think?
2. Religious reasons: Compassion is a cornerstone of Hinduism, which explains why so many Hindus are vegetarian.
3. I guess I just wasn’t into meat for a while.
Vegetarianism of course carries with it a long list of benefits, from better health (losing weight, lower LDLs, more fiber, etc.), to a healthier environment (less livestock being raised for meat, less methane emission). I still hold that reducing our meat intake is the only way to ensure some sort of humane treatment for animals, since much of the tactics being employed today are the result of the maddening demand for meat and the need to industrialize the process of raising and slaughtering livestock.
Vegetarianism is still the best option, but clearly I wasn’t ready for it on some level. I probably should have known when I was so reluctant to give up seafood.
I don’t think I entirely expected I’d lapse. Yet I think once I started to have very vivid dreams of eating meat again, I needed to address it. My diet was severely lacking in protein and it was affecting my health. Yes, I still ate seafood, but preparing decent seafood enough times per week was not something I was able to do. So I slipped and fell, or returned to my normal diet, however you’d like to look at it.
Do I feel a little guilty? Oh yeah. Do I think I’ll try to become a vegetarian again? Probably, though further down the road. Do I regret lapsing? Not entirely. I needed to address my health, that was the main reason I went back…though yes, some of it was caving into the general need for non-vegetarian fare. It’s not like I’m about to swing to the other end of the spectrum and go completely carnivorous and eat all kinds of meat. It’s just returning to what I would normally have before my experiment with pescatarianism. This translates to seafood, some chicken, but never beef. I’m trying to stick with organic sources, or at least theoretically organic sources (halal/kosher), though it’s so unfortunate that organic products are much more expensive than the run-of-the-mill variety.
Maybe once I’m living on my own, and have enough time to devote to preparing meals, I’ll venture back into vegetarian territory. Until then though…
I figure after 3500+ views in a little over a month, I should probably welcome all of you who read my blog. Welcome, bienvenidos, bienvenue, welkom, swaagat, swaagatham, and (insert welcome of choice here).
I’m so glad to see this blog has started to blossom and attract numerous viewers. I hope you are finding the posts informative and maybe even entertaining. I will try to keep the topics varied and interesting, so that everyone can find something to read and enjoy on this site.
Thank you so much for your support, kind words, and even criticisms. Here’s to hoping this blog continues to thrive!
It seems like I like to blog a lot about coffee, but I digress.
Many of us are hopelessly chained to Starbucks or another cafe for supposedly good lattes, mochas, and other espresso drinks. Others tend to just stick with a regular cup of Joe, with their handy coffeemaker, and often store-bought, pre-ground coffee. At the end of the day, it’s a question of convenience. In the morning, crank up the coffeemaker, add the coffee, brew it, drink it, done. On the way to work or class, stop by your neighborhood cafe or other coffee vendor, pick up your latte and go on with your day. “America Runs on Dunkin’” is a statement that really is not terribly far from the truth. It’s either Dunkin’, McDonalds, Starbucks, or some other cafe.
Assume you get a tall, caramel macchiato from Starbucks once a day, every day of the work week. Let’s also assume that you work every week of the year (lame scenario but some people actually do). The cheapest, tall, caramel macchiato I’ve had (at least where I am) is $3.60. There are about 52 weeks in a year. Here’s how much you’d pay in a year:
$3.60 x 5=$18.00
$18.00 x 52=$936
Ok just to be fair, let’s knock off a few days from that count. One for Christmas Day, one for New Year’s Day, one for Labor Day, and one for the Fourth of July. Here’s the new number:
$936-($3.60 x 4) = $921.60
That’s just for one, tall (16 fl. oz.), caramel macchiato. So you’re not so much into the Starbucks lattes and prefer the Starbucks regular coffee? At Starbucks (as I recall) a tall, regular coffee is around $1.60. Doing the same math I did above, I come out with $409.60, including off-days. While that is a substantially lower figure, it’s still a pretty big chunk of money going towards coffee.
Ok, you’re not into Starbucks, period. You run on Dunkin’. Since I’m not as familiar with the prices at Dunkin’ Donuts, I’ll leave you to the math. As I recall though, lattes are something like $2-$3, for a small. Coffee is in the $1-$2 range. Any specifics would be appreciated. Nonetheless, it works out to around the same.
I’m not going to assess the cost-effectiveness of making regular coffee at home, it’s pretty obvious it’s more convenient. What I’m looking to prove is that making espresso drinks at home do not have to be expensive, and in fact, can be very cost-effective.
So you think you need an espresso-maker to make good espresso? Let’s check this out. An espresso maker that actually involves using pressure (as opposed to just steam) to extract flavor costs between $100 and $9,000. Not gonna lie, that last number made me die a little inside, since it was the cost of about one semester of tuition in college, give or take. Now, this is for a “decent” espresso maker.
A French press is a coffee pot with a plunger. The coffee grounds are combined directly with boiling water, stronger brews generally mean leaving the mix for about 10-15 minutes. The plunger is used to trap the grounds at the bottom of the pot. The brew is poured through a filter. The result is near espresso-quality coffee that can be used to make a host of espresso-based drinks. Beyond ground coffee, the most you may need (if you insist) is coffee flavoring syrups, and maybe caramel sauce. Nonetheless if you wanted to make a 16 oz. caramel macchiato-esque drink, here’s what it would run you:
1 750 mL Monin Caramel Syrup: $7.95 (1/2 oz. per serving)
1 French Press: $25.00 (rough estimate based on cheapest available French Presses)
1 12 oz. Monin Caramel Sauce: $6.00 (1/2 oz. per serving)
1/2 lb. coffee beans (Guatemala Amatitlan, from Oren’s Roast): $7.00 (2/3 oz. per 5 oz. water)
1 Burr Grinder: $30.00 (rough estimate based on cheapest available grinders)
So given these numbers, here is the approximate cost per day, given the number of days looked at earlier:
$25.00+$30.00+($7.95 x 1/2 / 25.36) + ($6.00 x 1/2 / 12) + ($7.00 x 2.13/8)= $57.28
I may have forgotten the cost of steamed milk (easily made in a sauce pan with an immersion blender if you don’t have a milk steamer) and/or whipped cream. Still, the price is negligible per day.
Ok so French Presses give outstanding-flavored coffee, but they don’t exactly make “espresso” by the textbook definition. Even if you substitute the French Press for one of the “cheaper” espresso makers ($699.00 is the price of one of the top-ranked, decent-sized, espresso makers), the price comes out to $2.85 per day. For espresso drinks, with sauces and syrups, that’s a virtual steal, assuming you don’t supplement with too many espresso drinks from cafes.
Since I’m not about to spend that much right now (maybe once I get that book deal…hehe), the French Press will suit me just fine. I think that’s a reasonable request for Christmas, right? At the very least, I can make a decent cup of coffee for the time being. The syrups and sauces will come later.
Starbucks has officially died in my eyes…or whatever you call it when a previously small, intimate business sells out to corporate America. This was apparent months, if not years ago, and manifested most recently as a widespread closing of Starbucks stores in order to retrain their baristas. I think they realized they have a problem when they say that there were more resources being devoted to promoting Khaled Hosseini’s “Kite Runner”–a book that does not need any more promotion because it is inherently amazing–than to preparing halfway decent coffee.
I have learned to avoid Starbucks on the whole. Their warm drinks are, more often than not, watery, if not burnt or bitter-tasting. The caramel macchiatos I used to like in high school are nothing like what they used to be. The only thing Starbucks seems to have going for them are their frappucinos and iced drinks. Winter, though, makes it hard to enjoy these. I’ll probably cave in during the summer, but not before I find other good coffee places so that I can break the Starbucks habit.
Granted, I’m not exactly a coffee aficionado, I don’t know the first thing about coffee-tasting or coffee-types, though I want to learn. I’m still a sucker for so-called “dessert coffees.” However, I still have my favorite coffees.
Gimme! Coffee is something I was introduced to in Cornell, while Oren’s Roast is a coffee shop I recently found near NYU. Both have amazing quality coffee, neither lacking in flavor, or body. Granted, the things I tend to get are drowning in sugar–even in spite of that–the flavor still comes through. Starbucks coffee, meanwhile, is generally masked by sugar. There are two Gimme! cafes in Manhattan and one in Brooklyn, and I’m hoping to visit one of them soon (would anyone like to come with?). I still miss the vanilla, peppermint lattes–called “dragonfly” on their menu–from the cafe in Mann Library.
Oren’s, meanwhile, is conveniently across the street from the Silver Center, where I while my time away. I joke with my friends that it is the only way I can get through classes, indeed the coffee is very strong but never bitter, or burnt. They also have a wide selection of coffee beans and you can buy coffee grounds from there itself.
I’ve always joked that if I ever make any money (perhaps from my still elusive book deal?) I’d buy a house with a bar, but since I don’t drink, I’d convert it into an espresso bar. While I do love going out for coffee, this seems like a cost-effective solution, especially if you learn how to properly make espresso drinks. That, however, is well in the future if not completely out of my reach. Until then, I’ll keep coffee-hunting and keep you posted on what I find!
Any suggestions for places in the New York City area?