Daily Archives: January 21, 2009

Is Neil Gaiman your cup of cup of novelty coffee?

My three favorite things: Neil Gaiman, coffee and funny article headings. Why two “cup of”s I wonder? Extra emphasis perhaps. Here is a fun article by the Guardian Books Blog reviewing a fun bookshop/coffee store with novelty coffees.

Is Neil Gaiman your cup of cup of novelty coffee?

Ahdaf Soueif pours tea while visiting a house in the West Bank

One image or two? … Ahdaf Soueif pours steaming hot glasses of Amos Oz while visiting a house in the West Bank. Photograph: Marco Di Lauro/Getty Images

Gaiman is less sensible compared to Pamuk” – it could only be a fragment from the age of the internet. But this isn’t a shard of incisive literary criticism, it’s a restaurant review, or something like it.

It’s a post from Tita Larasati about a trip she took last week to the Reading Lights bookshop and coffee corner in (appropriately enough) West Java. According to the picture she’s uploaded of the cafe menu, the Neil Gaiman is an “ice black coffee, fresh milk, peanut butter, hazelnut syrup, cinnamon & cold froth”, while Orhan Pamuk is a “hot cappuccino with a special mix of kapulaga” (cardamon to you and I).

Now I have a problem with novelty coffee at the best of times, quite apart from the suggestion of stirring peanut butter into any kind of fluid which is clearly not “sensible” at all. But the fact that the Pamuk – cappuccino? cardamon? – seems just wrong to me raised the question of what kind of coffee, or indeed, what kind of foodstuff would be just right.

I’ve got Pamuk down as a rigorous formalist, firmly rooted in Middle Eastern culture, but engaging with it using all the tools provided by Borges, Calvino and Joyce. So how about a nicely laid out plate of zaletti? Or maybe that’s a little too literal. How about a bar of Kendal mint cake?

All of which got me thinking. Samuel Beckett might well suggest a glass of eau de vie, or Herman Melville a bowl of Boston baked beans, but what about Shakespeare? What about Proust? (And nobody say “madeleines”.)

Maybe some authors could only be captured by a dish and accompaniments, or even a whole meal. What would you say to Salman Rushdie as an eat-all-you-can buffet in an upmarket Indian restaurant? Or HonorĂ© de Balzac as a grand aioli? But I’m sure you literary Heston Blumenthals can do a whole heap better. Over to you.