On Sipping.

Coffee Shop Portraits, original drawings by Daniel Embree, ©2008

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.


5 thoughts on “On Sipping.

  1. Love this! Sip culture is a simple aspect of life, but it’s a great one. Sipping hot coffee and tea is so comforting during the colder seasons. Glad you’re taking time to appreciate the simple things 🙂

  2. Such an interesting point! I tend to add a little cold water or ice cubes to my coffee because I don’t quite have the patience for sipping. =)

    I have also thought a lot about bitter flavors in context of my old life and my new life. I am pretty sure I threw my first ever cup of coffee straight into the trash because it was so awful tasting to me! I am glad my palate has adjusted.

  3. Once again we think alike. I came to these same conclusions some time ago. People raised Mormon put anything legally drinkable into three categories: water, milk, and sweet. And the purpose of drinking any of these is to quench thirst, which means gulping large volumes. The concept of sipping is foreign to Mormon culture, as is the concept of very non-sweet things like wine as basically a food item rather than a thirst quencher. Mormons who love savory things like spicy sauces or balsamic vinegar in a salad dressing will recoil at the thought of the very same taste in a liquid they can drink—solely because it is a liquid they can drink and not a texture they can chew. Without exception, all my ex-Mormon friends had to get past that idea before they were able to learn to enjoy any alcoholic drinks.

  4. I have never quite understood the sipping either.
    On my Mormon mission I always had to use bathrooms as I always drank too much liquid wherever we’d go. Even now I need to learn to s…i….p.
    Great post.

  5. I think the sip theory could also be applied to life. How often do we gulp experiences, or people, or ideas. Maybe its just to get rid of it/them, or if they don’t last long we don’t have to really think. If we sip experiences, people and ideas, what would we learn?

    Great post, I love it.

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