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Sheldon retired into the back after setting up the dining room, as always, to Dire Straits Sultans of Swing.
The coffee shop was quickly populated as soon as we opened the door. Skip, Don and Ken at the round table followed by the numinous others on the counters. Lorna was folding napkins by the front door. Doug was in the kitchen. The tourists arrived, sleep in their eyes, having awoken in a quiet darkness, cityless, lost. Bach’s Coffee Cantata replaced the Sultans of Swing.
Soon everyone was drinking coffee, not tea, in spite of the old English atmosphere. Coffee, you may have heard, was discovered by goats. The goat is the eighth of all zodiac animals, loving and selfless, always thinking of others according to Chinese lore. In Greek mythology the goat is associated with the gods Dionysus and Pan. In Latin America there is El Chupacabra, a fearsome disgusting character that feeds on the blood of goats. No one, to my knowledge, ever saw a chupacabra in the Sea Gull coffee shop.
[Chupacabra investigator Benjamin] Radford says it might have something to do with an anti-US sentiment found across Latin America. This is particularly true in Puerto Rico, which is in the unusual position of being a non-state territory of the US. “I spoke to several Puerto Ricans who felt that the US had exploited, short-changed, and ignored the island, in economic and many other ways,” he says. Most recently, this resentment has played out in the island’s ongoing debt crisis. As for chupacabras, there are many Puerto Ricans who believe they are another indication of American exploitation and meddling; the result of top secret US scientific experiments taking place in El Yunque rainforest, not far from Tolentino’s hometown. [The U.S. failure in Puerto Rico was compounded by the recant earthquake.]
We sometimes went through an entire tray of Sour Cream Coffee Cake on a good morning at the Sea Gull. Remember those days? It was just after the fire. The old crowd watched with amusement as a new crowd formed around them. Eventually they merged into one. It was the way things used to be.
There was a sense of proprietorship, of ownership and why not? Half the town had pitched in one way or another to rebuild the place. Debts aren’t measured in dollars and cents, they’re measured in time and sweat.
Think in the Morning may someday do a cookbook based on the Sea Gull menu. Until then we will post recipes periodically. You are free to try them. Here we present the Sour Cream Coffee Cake recipe thanks to our fabulous baker, Jeanne Sullivan. It goes equally well with Bach’s Coffee Cantata or the Sultans of Swing and coffee, of course, thanks to the goats. However, keep an eye out for El Chupacabra. One never knows.
Sour Cream Coffee Cake
(Recipe courtesy of Jeanne Sullivan)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees
2 cups chopped walnuts
1/3 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons cinnamon
Cream: 1 pound butter, 2 ½ cups sugar
Beat in: 2 cups sour cream, 4 eggs
Mix together and add: 4 cups flour, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1 Tablespoon baking powder
Stir in: 2 teaspoons vanilla ‘til blended
Spread 1/2 of batter in a greased 12 x 12 pan
Sprinkle with 1/2 of the nut mixture
Cover this with rest of batter
Spread with spatula or knife to cover nut layer
Cover with rest of nut mixture
Bake for 45 minutes to one hour until center springs back or toothpick comes out clean
Cool on rack for ½ hour