caffè al ginseng cannella carezze

A ginseng Christmas

by Arianna Magnani

We hadn’t seen each other for ages!
Luckily I hadn’t forgotten, even if, with the tiredness of this period, I’m continuously forgetting everything.

We have to meet in a bar.

I’m very fond of Viola, and at this time of the day I’d eat anything, but I know already that I won’t find anything suitable for me, so the idea doesn’t thrill me very much. I love her, all the same, let’s be clear; in fact, I couldn’t say no when she was insistent.
She says it’s convenient for her because it’s near her office and her mother-in-law’s house, so we manage to squeeze our meeting between work and when she has to go and pick up the baby from the grandmother.

That’s why we haven’t seen each other for ages: I work in one side of the city, she in the other. I’m single, she’s a wife and now, also a mother. I, between various intolerances, follow a very rigid diet; she eats everything. We’ve no longer even been able to go for our beloved weekly dinners… and the result is that the last time we saw each other was for my birthday, in August. Since then, only messages on WhatsApp. And photos of the baby, obviously.

I arrive at the bar and I see her immediately, with her red hair, waiting for me at a table.
But how does she manage to be so beautiful? If I had a few months-old baby, I’d look like a tramp. Forget curls and hat matching with the handbag.
We greet each other, hugging, as we’ve done for fifteen years, and that embrace cancels the space-time hole that separated us until a moment ago.

Viola is always Viola; I’m always me. But, most of all, we’re always us and we jump into our chatting as if we’d seen each other only yesterday and not four months ago.

Then the inevitable happens: the fragrance of croissants, even if it’s late afternoon, the waitress that passes between the tables with glass cups with inviting contents – and the aroma that is released as she walks by.

An emptiness opens up before me, which has to remain unfilled.

“Hi girls. What can I bring you?”

“Green coffee for me and ganoderma, as usual”, responds Viola, while I look at her with one raised eyebrow, without understanding.

“And for you?” the waitress asks me.

“I’m fine, thanks”, I say, aware that this seems a bit unfriendly.

She, instead of looking at me crossly, smiles at me and says:

“What? You’re not going to just sit and watch!”

This time both my eyebrows are raised for the surprise, but I remain in silence.

“Go on. We have some really special coffees. It’s impossible that there’s nothing on the menu that you like.”

Then I speak, in my defence.

“It’s not that I don’t like them. They look great. It’s just that I’m a bit intolerant and I can’t touch certain things. But don’t worry, it’s not a problem.”

“Look. I’ve also got intolerances. I chose this line because it’s suitable for everybody… I couldn’t be a waitress and not taste what I offer to my customers. Trust me: I’ll bring you a ginseng coffee.”

I’m impressed with the effort, but I hesitate. Who knows if she’s sincere or if it’s just all marketing.

“But I’m intolerant to gluten; are we sure that the machine isn’t contaminated with barley?”

“All these coffees are gluten-free. Don’t worry.”

“But I can’t even eat dairy foods and refined sugars.”

“I’ll bring you a ginseng coffee, then, with coconut sugar. That doesn’t even contain milk!”

I have to admit that at this point I was curious. And, most of all, I was stuck for a reply.

“Ok then. I’ll go for that.”

“Oh, great! I’ll be back immediately, girls.”

I turn to Viola, who’s smiling.

“She didn’t even make any funny remarks on my absurd order”, I say to her, still amazed.
“Ah, she’s good. Do you know how many times she’s known how to recommend the right thing at the right time? Especially when I’d just finished maternity leave. I would arrive exhausted and she’d pick me up in an instant. I wouldn’t come here every day otherwise!”

Her argument is flawless.

When our coffees arrive, I’m intoxicated by the aroma. Mine smells of hazelnut.
I’m intrigued by this glass cup.
I take a sip and all my hesitation disappears. Love at first sip.
Viola studies me; I smile at her.

“What’s the matter? You know that coconut sugar has a low glycaemic index? It’s one of the few sugars that I can allow myself!”

“I know. You’ve told me a million times…”

“And who knows if ginseng will help me to recover a bit from this atrocious tiredness, now that I can no longer drink normal coffee.”

Viola doesn’t even have the time to reply.

“What’s more, can you explain to me how you manage not to be as exhausted as I am, since besides work, you also have the baby to look after?”

I’m over-talkative, I know, but that always happens when I’m happy.

I pause only to take another sip of my ginseng, but in the meantime I take a glance at her cup.

“Do you want to try?” she asks me, before, at least this time – I could say anything.

I taste this green ganoderma coffee, which I had no idea what it was, and I was amazed by its delicate taste. I had to do some research because it had a superfood name. And I have a fondness for superfoods.
I look again at the menu with more curiosity: at this point I’d like to try all the drinks, one after the other.

Viola brings me back to reality.

“And now, I have to pick up the baby from his grandma.”

“Yeah! You’re right, the time has flown.”

“That’s right. I’ll see you soon, I hope.”

“What about next week, same place, same time?”

She smiles.

“But different coffee.”

“It’s a deal!”

“Happy Christmas!”, we say together