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The Starbucks vortex

December 21, 2010 4 comments
Starbucks logo

Image via Wikipedia

Slowly, over time, I have come around to the green sign with the goddess-like siren at its center.  In mythology, this siren/mermaid attempts to seduce mariners with her sweet song, to his unfortunate demise.  He may have been a knowledgeable seaman, but proved powerless to the charms of this vixen. Fashioned in 1971, it was an appropriate omen.  Starbucks has become an integral part of people’s days, even the most coffee averse.

Typically for me, it is a tall americano; I am a simple girl, afterall.  At other times, when I crave high maintenance and drama, it is a grande, non-fat, extra hot, half-sweet vanilla latte.  I cannot order it without laughing.  On days when I need this boost, it is like putting a band-aid on my scraped knee: it doesn’t make the pain go away, but at least I feel like I am trying to something about it.

I am from the East coast of Canada, where Tim Hortons rules the roost, so it wasn’t an easy transition, especially since there are no chocolate dipped donuts at Starbucks.  Tim Hortons coffee – although always fresh, as their logo suggests – is more diner variety; it doesn’t come from a fancy espresso machine, but rather a drip style industrial strength coffee maker.  You commonly hear people approach the counter asking for “an extra-large double double, please,” which translates to a lot of coffee with a lot of cream and sugar in it.  Then they throw a toonie ($2) on the counter, and wait for their change.  Tim Hortons is the much more economical of the two, hands down.

Folklore abounds which suggests Tim Hortons puts nicotine or MSG in their coffee, people find its coffee so addictive.  Both claims of course have been proven false, the people spreading this rumor perhaps have yet to realize caffeine itself is the addictive ingredient.

Yet when I moved west, Tim Hortons didn’t follow suit.  There were no familiar brown storefronts with neon signs, but green signs with vixens in the middle were plentiful.  In fact, on every corner, it seemed.  That siren beckoned me again and again.  Before I knew it, I was accustomed to its verging-on-bitter, dark taste, and prepared to spend three times as much as I had back east for my regular cup of joe.  I was memorized less by the coffee itself than its sheer volume of storefronts.  When you start noticing a lack of Starbucks in Vancouver, you are nearing its outskirts.

I have steadily expanded my repertoire, discovering and falling for its eggnog lattes, Vivanno smoothies, vanilla rooibos tea, and its and oatmeal when I am traveling in lieu of cold scrambled eggs at hotels (and don’t let any barista bully you into choosing between the nuts or the dried fruit, you are entitled to both).  On the road, Starbucks becomes a refuge, a little piece of home amongst the chaos of uncertainty. I still seek out local mom and pop cafe’s, many of which rival Starbucks coffee and atmosphere, but if in a hurry and on a mission, sometimes familiarity works better.

By now I am addicted to this part of my day, as necessary as showering, or cocktails on Fridays, in that it is something I look forward to.  I like to change up my locations: I hit the Dundarave Starbucks for meeting my friend for writing dates, Ambleside Starbucks assures me easy parking, Park Royal Starbucks when I need to do other errands, Horseshoe Bay is my stand alone favorite, a restful Starbucks where you can watch the ferries docking and leaving. Its multitude of locations assures its usefulness, and it continually infiltrates my day.

For economic reasons, I frequently make coffee at home with my trusty french press with the broken beak, and after loading it up with Starbucks Breakfast Blend grinds, it tastes dangerously close to my typical americano.  I can’t seem to escape the clutches of that sea goddess; Starbucks is the largest coffeehouse in the world for a reason.  But on the days when my only glimpse of her is from the bag of beans in my own kitchen, I miss that siren with the Mona Lisa smile.

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Kale Smoothies – Let’s drink to our health

November 30, 2010 Leave a comment
Curly kale

Image via Wikipedia

I have never liked salads.  But throw greens and some berries into a blender in order to reap the health benefits?  Now you’re talking.

I try to like salads – I order them frequently when I am in restaurants, especially when in the company of other women.  It seems like the right thing to do.  But I rarely enjoy them, and almost never make them for myself at home –  way too much chopping and dicing for my taste, and my children will recoil in disgust anyway.

This doesn’t sway me, however, from regularly buying bags of prepared greens at the grocery store, only to throw their wilted contents away the next week.  Because I want to be a salad eater, I really do: it’s hip, it’s healthy, we all need to eat more vegetables; my intentions are pure.  But when the chips are down, and my stomach is rumbling, I can’t be bothered.

I am, however, a devotee of smoothies.  These concoctions can be thrown together in mere minutes, and if I’m in a hurry I pour it in a to go cup and take it with me.  My children love them and can even make them for themselves,  they’re a perfect after school snack.  I have perfected my own homemade version of the Starbucks Vivanno: skim milk, a frozen banana, a tablespoon of cocoa and some protein powder.  My children prefer smoothies made from berries.   I’m even happy to customize them for each child, if one likes blueberries while the other prefers strawberries.  All it takes is a quick rinse of the blender.  This makes them over the moon, since I refuse to do this for meals; doing so would render me a short order cook.

But my smoothie repertoire has become stale,  I’m getting sick of the same old thing.  And although healthy, smoothies don’t up my vegetable quota for the day.  The few raw carrots I throw into my mouth don’t amount to a  full serving, thus leaving me a few celery sticks short of fulfilling my recommended daily requirements from Canada’s Food Guide.

A friend made me a kale smoothie the other day.  That’s right, kale.  I don’t know about you, but I have tried to cook with kale, much to the chagrin of my children, and it didn’t turn out so well.  Yet I read about the incredible health benefits of this food – it is the veritable superman of vegetables, rich in calcium, lutein, iron, and Vitamins A, C, and K.; it has seven times the beta-carotene of broccoli and ten times more lutein.  Knowing this, I figured I should at least give it a shot.

The smoothie she passed me was dark green in color, and frankly looked like liquid grass, so I was dubious.  But it tasted fantastic.  In fact, it tasted like goodness itself, and I could practically hear the cells of my body crying out a collective, “thanks, we needed that!” as I drank it.

Try it, you’ll like it.

Kale Smoothie Recipe

  • 1 cup water
  • 2 stocks of kale
  • 1/2 cup frozen raspberries
  • 1/2 cup frozen mango
  • 1 banana
  • mint, to taste