My husband didn’t grow up Mormon, and so his family is very different from mine. The first time I went to stay with them in Washington, I experienced coffee for the first time. I woke up early because I wasn’t used to the time change, and went into the kitchen for a cup of orange juice. I love being up in the morning with the lights off when everything is quiet. Michael’s mom was the only other person awake, and she was brewing coffee in a little french press. She offered me a cup, but I opted for the orange juice I was more familiar with.
We sat at the bar and talked as the sun came up. She told me about her son and how she worried about him and how happy we looked together. We must have been chatting for at least an hour before anyone else woke up. In that time she finished one cup of coffee, and it must have taken the whole hour to finish it. In the same time I had downed three cups of juice, and each cup only lasted a minute.
I don’t know how to sip.
At restaurants, no server can keep my water glass full. As soon as my water is refilled, I drink half of it. I must go through eight cups of water every time I dine out. It took me a few years of interacting with Michael’s family and comparing it to my own before I realized why.
When I’m with my in-laws, we drink coffee in the morning, and then again in the afternoon. Sometimes we open a bottle of wine at five while we put dinner together. After dessert, we wind down with a hot cup of tea. On Christmas morning, we unwrap presents with mimosas in hand. Each of these occasions is an excuse for conversation and spending time together. And each of these occasions requires sipping.
Hot coffee must be sipped, or it will burn you. It’s a lesson the roof of my mouth has tried to teach me many times. Wine is more subtle. If you are trying to impress your in-laws, you won’t want to guzzle it. Unfortunately I have also learned this the hard way. And tea, honestly I don’t think anyone enjoys a big gulp of tea. Drinking tea is more about the fragrant, warm experience of it than quenching your thirst. It’s relaxing, but only if you sip it.
I didn’t grow up with these experiences, and so I didn’t grow up needing to sip. I think there are three things my family drinks: water, orange juice, and milk. Drinking is about thirst, not conversation. That’s not to say my family doesn’t spend time together over the kitchen counter in the morning. It’s just that in that morning talk, the nine of us may polish off a gallon of orange juice. And if there’s Oberweis chocolate milk in the fridge, it won’t be there for lunch.
I have come to appreciate sip-culture, hard as it is to adapt to it. I love the way it gives us an excuse to slow down, and I love that satisfied feeling of enjoying something and making it last–when I can pull it off. I love the way drinks mark time during the day. Most of all, I love how much sipping coffee with my mother in-law has taught me about my husband and the world he comes from.