Our kitchen on Lake Temagami had no electricity. All cooking was done over propane-fueled flame. That meant no toaster, no microwave, and no Mr. Coffee. We made our morning coffee the old-fashioned way, in metal percolators.
The slow process set a good rhythm for the day. First, remove the cold metal fittings — the stalk, the basket, and the lid — from the pot, then fill it most of the way with water. Insert the basket onto the stalk. Open the coffee can, smell those savory dark brown grounds, and feel the crunch as you spoon out the coffee until the basket is filled. Put the lid on the basket and stalk, and place them upright in the pot. Turn on the burner and hear the hiss of the gas. Light it, and watch the little flames ignite until a tiny circle of blue dances in the kitchen darkness. Put the pot on the burner. Then, repeat the process for percolator #2.
Soon enough, the percolators will begin to sing their song. Jets of steam will skreee from their spouts, and the pots will cluck and and rattle as the heated coffee circulates through the grounds in the basket and plops against the inside of their glass percolation bulbs. When the pots are burbling furiously and the coffee seen through the bulb is black, you’re done. Turn off the burner, pour out that piping hot liquid into your cup, and let it warm your hands as you inhale the dark aroma and let the coffee cool a bit. Then, take a tentative first sip. Ahhhh!
I’m back home, drinking coffee from our electric brewer. It’s very good, but I miss the song of the percolator. It’s a song that I haven’t heard in a long time — one of the sounds that I associate with childhood, like the whistle of a tea kettle or the comforting hum of static from the TV when programming ended for the day.