I was reading Little House on the Prairie with my youngest daughter the other day. Here’s a passage that surprised me.
Then Pa brought water from the creek, while Mary and Laura helped Ma get supper. Ma measured coffee beans into the coffee mill and Mary ground them.
I’d read this book with my other children and hadn’t given this part a thought. This time I thought about how odd it was that they had coffee. At this point the Ingalls family was moving from Wisconsin to Kansas some time in the 1870’s. The family of five and all their worldly goods were packed into a covered wagon. They shot wild game for food. They gathered water from creeks. And yet they had coffee.
Coffee doesn’t grow in the continental United States. It grows in the tropics at high altitudes. These settlers living off the land in the middle of nowhere had some coffee beans that had been imported from thousands of miles away. It’s interesting to think that despite all that they lacked, they had these tropical beans and apparently took them for granted. Said another way, of all the benefits of civilization, coffee made the short list of things settlers chose to take with them.