24 March 2013

Musing on the Historical Kaldi …

Posted by at 5:57 PM Read our previous post
It was in a cute little local coffee shop in Atlanta that I first heard of the legend of Kaldi and his dancing goats. I was standing in line waiting for the very pretty halfway-to-hippy barista girl to make my café americano —with a shot of caramel syrup.  A colorful display by the register told the legend of the origin of coffee with a stylized graphic of some goats dancing around Kaldi, a medieval Ethiopian goat herder.

The story: … 

… Kaldi started to notice that his goats were becoming rather excited and animated after grazing on the berries from a certain patch of bushes. His goats would "dance around." He had no idea why. On a hunch that he might be similarly affected, he tried the berries for himself. (Presumably, Kaldi fancied himself a dancer.)
Wowee! Those goats weren't kidding. What a rush!
After working in the fields, he stayed up the rest of that day and into the evening. Good thing that his wife was a heavy sleeper, because that night, he just could not sleep, so he did some stuff he had been meaning to do for a while. Might as well be useful, right? First he organized his sock drawer, then he fixed the squeaky gate hinge, then he weeded and pruned the front garden, then he wrote a three-act ballet.1  All before sunrise(!)  
This flurry of activity was so out of the ordinary for Kaldi that it scared him. He decided to bring these curious berries to the attention of his local Imam, who indeed reinforced Kaldi's growing alarm. It was pretty clear that this state of being amped-up like this surely could not be a good thing. Could it? It must be an evil thing.  This would not do. So, by the power vested in him, the imam indignantly threw the rest of Kaldi's beans into the fire … where they would have turned to charcoal and ash, too, but for the peculiar aroma that soon began to emanate from their roasting. It was so distinctive, so delicately alluring to everyone present that they decided to rescue the beans from the flames. After thus salvaging them, they ground them up, dissolved them in hot water, and collectively enjoyed the first cup of joe.   … (How they decided on that particular method of preparation —roasting, grinding, steeping— we can only speculate about.)  
Now …
This is probably not a true story.
But whether the dancing goats are apocryphal or not, our culture now practically revolves around this substance we now call caffeine.

That makes Kaldi some kind of prophet of the present day world.

Can I get an amen?

(Trolls please be advised that the above is a joke.)


1 Okay, okay … my recreation of the legend is a bit Dada. I'm obviously making shit up. Everybody knows that Ethiopians were not rightly introduced to the rich nuances of European ballet until much later, when Mussolini forcibly staged The Nutcracker in Addis Ababa on Haille Selassie's birthday. (Okay, you got me … I made that up too ;) … Isn't mythology fun? ) … Redaction in action, baby!

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