Cold coffee makes you beautiful!


by Thomas Stiegler

A sign of culture is the will to tame nature, to shape it according to one’s own wishes and thus to move further and further away from it. In other words, to become “unnatural”.

This runs like a thread through our history. You can see this, for example, in the changes that the image of beauty has undergone over the course of time.

In the animal kingdom, beauty is still something very simple: a sign of health and strength and thus the most important criterion for choosing a mate. But for us humans, the idea of what is considered beautiful has changed again and again and adapted to the prevailing culture up to the point where we are today.

I don’t even want to talk about all the skinny models and the strange ways of fashion that seem to only serve to make us ugly. But it is interesting to see how different our image of beauty is from what Titian or Rubens, with their figures almost bursting with life, presented to us as the ideal.

But I think that our time will also pass at some point and happier and, above all, livelier days will dawn again. After all, life does not follow a predefined path from A to B with a specific goal towards which we are moving. Rather, it resembles a spiral in which humanity is integrated and in which everything comes back at some point.

Even in earlier times, there were epochs in which ugliness, i.e. the morbid and unnatural appearance of a person, was stylised as beauty, and these times also passed at some point and made way for another ideal of beauty.

An epoch that is perhaps not exactly known for its ugliness, but for the unnaturalness of its contemporaries, is the Baroque. For apart from the marionette-like appearance of its people (the ideal of the time was the mannequin pulled by strings) and the compassed language, they also tried to distance themselves as far as possible from nature in their appearance (although these very people were convinced that they were perfectly “natural”).

Bust of a Young Woman Drinking Coffee, Louis Marin Bonnet, 1774; © Rijksmuseum, CC0

One of their most important beauty features was flawless white skin, and women did almost anything to live up to this ideal. This included letting themselves be bled, smearing paint on their faces or other, far more dangerous means.

And even the hair was not allowed to fall softly and naturally, but was forced under a wig and hidden there.

The extent to which this could take place can be seen, for example, in a report on the Austrian chancellor Kaunitz:

“In order to powder his wig, four servants with bellows had to set great clouds of powder in motion incessantly in a room, during which time Kaunitz, walking up and down, tried to catch the finest powder with his wig and at the same time to achieve a proper distribution of the same.”

And now one must imagine a noblewoman of that time, high laced in a tight bodice, her hair powdered and coiffed and her face elaborately decorated.

To whom a servant serves a cup of freshly brewed coffee, the hot steam of which would undo all her efforts. What impertinence!

And so it came about that coffee was soon drunk only cold in these circles.

Because “cold coffee makes you beautiful”.

Although “cold coffee preserves beauty” would probably have been a better description.

Also in book form: Cultural histories of coffee – recipes and anecdotes of European coffee house culture.

Literature used


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