Among other things, when my wife returned from Europe she brought along an ancient aluminum percolator, the kind you heat over a burner on the stove top. The unit makes one cup of coffee or, if you are having company over and prefer, two demitasses. Etched into the side of the urn is the word “Bialetti” — the name of the Italian maker — and the trademark, Dama.

Although coffee in our house is traditionally made in a 12-cup coffee maker by the first person up in the morning, since her return my wife has developed a preference for the small European unit. Even if there is hot coffee available when she descends the stairs to the kitchen, my wife will invariably make her own personal cup in the Bialetti Dama.

It’s not that my wife is particular about her coffee, or that she’s the type who needs to exert her individuality; but merely that the Bialetti urn was given to her by her mother, who is now 82 years old and aging rapidly like the rest of us. My mother-in-law had used the Dama most of her adult life to brew her coffee, and now my wife is following in her mother’s footsteps.

Although she hasn’t said so, I’m certain that when my wife pours her cup of morning coffee from the Bialetti urn, as she watches the dark caramel colored liquid swirl into the thin rimmed cup, she almost surely thinks of her mother as she had performed the same rite of passage every morning, day in day out, for decades.

In giving the urn as a gift, my mother-in-law offered her daughter a widow’s mite; for she has been a poor woman her entire life — poor, that is, in a material sense.

As I disassembled the Dama and washed the individual components at the sink this morning, I reflected that the Bialetti urn was in reality a sacrament of sorts — the outward and visible sign of my suegra‘s inward and spiritual grace.

“Bialetti Dama” 2012©Brian T. Maurer


5 comments on “Sacraments

  1. Reuven Sobel says:

    Brian, hello,
    I’ve been a faithful user of one of those simple espresso makers for years. Tell your wife to try the Lavazzo Rossa espresso, a heaping tablespoon, not packed and she will get a cup of espresso as good as she’d get from one of those fancy expensive espresso machines.
    Reuven S

  2. Mark Colloton says:

    I had a few minutes between patients and I was going through the stack of journals piled on my desk. I had a few JAAPA journals and I quickly looked to see if you had a page in each journal. I was in luck, I found three of your works. I just wanted to tell you I am a big fan of your writing. When I receive the JAAPA journal, I immediately turn to see if you have a piece in the journal. I love your insightful, caring pieces you write.
    I think our paths have crossed in the past. Did you graduate from the PA program at the University of Colorado. I don’t recall if you were there after me, I graduated in ’82 and returned in ’87 as an instructor in the CHAP program.
    In any event keep em coming, I really enjoy your work.
    Mark Colloton

    • BTM says:

      Hi Mark,

      Our paths may have crossed at some point in the past, but I didn’t attend the PA program at University of Colorado. I graduated from the Hahnemann program in 1979 and did a subsequent postgraduate residency in pediatrics at Mount Sinai Hospital and affiliated institutions, 1981-1983.

      Thanks for your kind words about my writing. I try to focus on the patient as a person, both in my writing and in practice. Nobody bats 1.000, but I give it my best shot.

      Best wishes, both in your role as instructor at the CHAP program and in your medical practice.


  3. joy lorraine says:

    A lovely story, Brian. A more sacramental attitude and ritual practices around consumption could be transformative in both personal and social respects. Can you use one of those on an electric burner?

    I was just drafting another blog post from my Camino journey a couple of years ago (yes, I will finally finish the story this week!) – and reflecting (then and now) on the riches of that mid-morning coffee stop during a day of walking outdoors. I do miss that ritual.

    I’m also thinking that, if I do want to keep drinking coffee, and do want to keep sleeping at night – the cup size will have to change. Why do we use those huge mugs? My cupboard (cup – board) is full of them, but also has a little roundabout with cup-hangers, on which hang the Appleware coffee cups above matching saucers. These were enough for my mother and grandmother and their family and guests – maybe 6 oz? Instead of running around with a large mug of coffee going cold, perhaps I could sit and enjoy that one cup.

  4. Td says:

    We have the same stove …

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