I used to think of Belgium as Italy's retarded little brother, but after having spent a couple of weeks in Calabria and Sicily I've been reminded of the fact that's not an apt comparison - that it's more a case of Italy being Belgium's attractive but sociopathic ex-con cousin. I'll explain. The F-word and I are rather fussbudgets when it comes to small comforts like coffee. We're so cheap that when it comes to the little luxuries we make them as good as we possibly can - just hold them down and fuck their brains out. In Belgium that's been a bit hard. It's struck us whilst in Germany and in Italy that the coffee there is better than it is here, even within the same brand. Lavazza here is not nearly as good as Lavazza in either of those countries. I'm usually perfectly happy with Lavazza, but it tastes like steeped sand here, so we've been having the spring the double on Illy, which is painful when you're as fucking cheap as us, but there's no choice.
I don't know why this is. Belgium could be a low-priority export market because it's so small relative to the German market, and hence could be getting the shitty end of the lollipop in terms of qualities. Also, I've heard that this places maintains import customs, even within the EU, that involve impounding semi-perishables for a long time. I don't give that 100% credence because it's illegal, from what I understand of European law, but it would certainly explain why you have to pay 7 euros a pop to get espresso that doesn't taste stale, and also Belgium had a four year lag in terms of accepting EU passports as proof of the right of residency, which I believe was also illegal, but, well - I'm trying to be through complaining about this place as an abstract concept.
That's not stopping me from complaining about the coffee here, but big fucking deal, it's not much of a problem, it just means that when we go to Germany, which we do with relative frequency, we stock up on coffee at the same time as we stock up on delicious, delectable German beer. What I'm getting it is that I've found the right coffee to stock up on, if they sell it in Germany, and if they don't sell it in Germany, I'll set up some sort of mailing scheme with my family in Calabria, as the processing plant for it is in Reggio, the nearest big city to their village.
It's called Mauro, and it's the coffee for me. Rich, fatty, hints of chocolate - not a slap in the face in the morning, more of a nice rousing cuddle - but strong. And one thing about Belgium - there's a shitload of farmers here, who sell unpasteurized cow and goat milk at the daily market down the road from us. All this week, I've been drinking the Mauro with goat milk, because I'm quite fond of goat milk, but today switched to the cow milk, and it was just perfect. Just so lovely. So complimentary. Almost like music, the coffee and the milk worked together so beautifully.
So. Mauro is the coffee for me. But I understand why some people might like Illy better. Illy has a cleaner taste, and I think it's a little fattier, or at least it gets more of that creamy crema up top. And even if Illy refuses to participate in Fair Trade, it at least pretends to espouse some sort of social agenda in its bean sourcing, which Mauro doesn't even mention. But you know, I spent a lot of time in Reggio and the region around it this Christmas, and I can say without hesitation that supporting any business that provides employment there which doesn't involve processing garbage or killing people is supporting a very necessary social agenda.
Which leads me to my final point. Which is fuck, Italy makes me sad. The article I wrote this week about the poor man who fell into the machine was about an Italian. Strangely enough, his name was Mauro too. I write about industrial accidents all the time, but this one is affecting me more because the liability has been written off - the parent company artificially outsourced the department Mauro was working in a couple of years back. From local accounts this was probably done because the machinery was antiquated and dangerous, and they needed to get themselves away from liability questions associated with it. And you know what, apparently the safety inspector had approved the machine for operation that same morning. And his co-workers didn't know what had happened to him. He was just gone. All minced up, in little peices in a truck. The machinery was so loud nobody would have been able to hear him screaming. Fuck, it's just such a nightmare, and the public relations woman I was talking to from the company whose premises it was on could say to me quite honestly, 'it's really not our problem.'
Okay, things like that, much worse things, happen every day all over the world, but you know what? I'd have liked better from Italy. Call me a chauvinist - I absolutely am. But Italy is meant to be a developed country. And a man shouldn't be able to fall into a woodchipper and die in a developed country without it being someone's fucking problem. I think that should be one of the criteria for a country to be called developed. Oh fuck, now I'm crying. Perfect. Jolly good. Off to work. At least I've had a really good coffee to start the day.