In case you hadn’t heard, the federal government recently issued the “Absolutely Latest And Final True Dietary Guidelines Until We Issue New Ones Next Week.” Some things remain the same. Sugar is still bad, so put that doughnut down! Or, better yet, give it to me, since I’ve eaten enough sugar in my life to develop antibodies to fight the stuff. The government must have gotten a nice Christmas bonus from the National We Love Cholesterol Association because they’ve eased up on their warnings about that particular substance, though bad cholesterol is still naughty and should be sent to its room without its (low-cholesterol) supper.

But the big news is that our national nannies now approve of up to five cups a day of coffee! In my brain I have already translated “up to” to “a minimum of” because, well, “Hi, I’m Patrick, and I admit that I am powerless — not to mention shaky and jittery — when it comes to my coffee addiction.”

Since it’s The American Way to blame all our problems on our parents, I’ll blame this one on my mom. Early one Sunday, when I was home from college on vacation, my older brother, who worked as a radio station announcer, was lightly injured in a minor car accident on his way to work . Mom came into my room and started shaking me awake, saying, “Your brother’s been in an accident and you have to drive me to the hospital!” I responded with something intelligent and sensitive like “glub-glub sleep glub-glub go away,” at which point my mother held a mug of steaming liquid under my nose, and said, “Drink this.” Now, my mother made the kind of coffee that, if you didn’t watch it closely. would jump out of the cup and start running around the room. Needless to say, not only did I drive Mom to the hospital, but I made the half-hour drive in about ten minutes.

And thus began my enslavement to the black liquid. (And yes, I drink it black. If I try drinking it with sugar or cream, it literally makes me sick. Thanks, Mom.) Like the Spartans with their shields heading into battle, I would arrive at work each morning bearing my coffee thermos. When Juan Valdez and his donkey — or mule, or whatever — would appear on television I would stand and bow in homage. Prometheus brought fire to the earth, Odin gained the knowledge of the runes, Juan Valdez brings us coffee. One of my favorite inventors is the unknown (to me, anyway) person who invented the thingy that allows you to pull the carafe out of the electronic coffeemaker and pour yourself a cup while the coffeemaker is still brewing. Yay, I don’t have to wait another thirty seconds for it to finish!

I will admit that in recent years I’ve been occasionally lacing the real stuff with some decaf after grudgingly accepting the fact that caffeine affects me more than it used to. Still it’s nice to see the feds finally acknowledge the value of the Magical Brew. Just the other day I received in the mail an invitation to subscribe to some health newsletter. Included in the envelope was a pamphlet titled “51 Healthy Foods You Can Say ‘Yes’ To.”

I immediately checked to see if the pamphlet mentioned coffee. It didn’t. I threw it away.




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