Whipped coffee versus COVID-19

Sunday, April 5, 2020 - 3:19pm

NOSELL

The Cooking Foodie

My biceps started to ache as I rapidly whisked the sad, watery coffee-ground mixture with the manic fervor of a small child. Eyebrows furrowed and lips pressed together in a stubborn line, I was the poster image for culinary determination. It had been about 15 minutes since I first set my whisk to the coffee mixture, and I was not about to give up on the task at hand. The coffee would be whipped; it would be whipped and fluffy and a perfect caramel-brown color when I was done with it. 

Just one week prior, all of my classes had been moved to dinky online formats. And all my friends and I were sent back to the hometowns we had once been so eager to move away from. In one weekend, my dorm became empty and my inbox became full of canceled events I once looked forward to. Over a couple email exchanges, I went from having two work-study positions to having zero. Club meetings were canceled indefinitely and promising summer prospects lost their promise.

But, in that moment, it was just me, my whisk and my stupid coffee recipe that I found on TikTok. I was in control. No virus was going to stop me from turning a TikTok dream into a deliciously whipped, coffee-lover’s reality. I whisked and I whisked and I whisked.

But it just wasn’t whipping. The gritty, brown mixture stayed that way and there were no fluffiness or caramel hues in sight. I was infuriated, cursing under my breath like some sort of deranged cooking show competitor. The pressure was on, and the clock was ticking, as if I didn’t have an infinite amount of time in self-quarantine to whisk this stupid drink. Successfully making this iced coffee was my first concrete task after what seemed like weeks of floating around, scratching off events from my calendar and forcing myself to find contentment in days of newly-freed time. 

But I wasn’t finished yet — I whisked nobly onward. In an attempt to ease the physically taxing nature of my work, I started switching off my whisking hands, my breathing getting heavier with every passing minute. I adopted yet another strategy: tilting the metal bowl from one side to the other, searching for the perfect angle that would yield the creamy concoction TikTok had promised. Brown bubbles forming on the edges of the soupy mixture started to tease me in my culinary pursuit. I let out a few crazed shouts of pride as I looked down at what appeared to be the beginnings of a bubbly, thoroughly-whipped beast. 

I think my mom could sense my increasing hysteria as she approached my mess of a chef’s station. Coffee grounds and sugar granules were peppered all over the white countertop like confetti. With bubbles forming then disappearing and coffee grounds sitting stubborn and rigid at the bottom of the bowl, I started to lose hope. I could’ve cried. It was a Friday afternoon and I should’ve been in Ann Arbor, in East Quad, basking in the excitement that is the start of the weekend and the promise of a night out with friends. Instead, I was back home in Indiana, staring at my icky, failed attempt at whipped happiness, with my mom leaning over my shoulder in concern. 

Her voice was full of pity. “You saw this on TikTok?” I looked down pathetically at the dirt-like mixture and nodded.

“What kind of coffee does the recipe call for?” she asked.

“Instant coffee powder,” I muttered. 

I looked over at the crumbly Dunkin’ stuff I had just spent almost an hour trying to whisk into a creamy paste. The bright orange package read “medium roast coffee grounds.” I eyed the instant-coffee imposter with nervous suspicion. 

“Grace, that’s not instant coffee. Instant coffee is freeze-dried!” my mom exclaimed. She started to laugh, “That’s ground coffee!” 

I knew she was right but I didn’t want to believe it. The ground coffee was supposed to work and it was supposed to be fluffy, tasty goodness. And I was supposed to be in Michigan, with my classes and my friends and my a cappella rehearsals and club meetings and responsibilities. I was supposed to be at college.

I let out a defeated sigh as I started to clean up the goopy brown mess. 

Whipped coffee: 1.

COVID-19: 1.

Me: 0.

“There will be more recipes,” my mom added.

And she was right. There will be more recipes and there will be more semesters and more responsibilities. And when those times come, I might miss the Friday afternoon I spent whisking my heart away at something as unimportant and frivolous as whipped coffee.