The Celluloid Pantry: Strong Coffee and Bagdad Café (1987)

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"That's not coffee. That's brown water."

I like my coffee with a little texture, the kind you get when you make it in a French press. When the cup's nearly done, that's when you know whether it's serious. There should be some sediment left on the bottom, soft like river mud.

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In Bagdad Café (1987) (a.k.a. Out of Rosenheim), strong coffee becomes a kind of cultural litmus test. German tourist Jasmin (Marianne Sägebrecht, above left) is stranded "off Route 66 between Vegas and nowhere" after a roadtrip argument with her husband. Although she doesn't know it yet, her big yellow thermos full of coffee is stranded too. Both eventually make it to a rundown truckstop motel/café in a place called Bagdad. The thermos gets there first.

With the café's own coffee machine broken, Jasmin's brew gets served up to customers in short order, and to a mixed reception. Ironically it's Jasmin's husband who stops by first. "Good. Very good coffee." (He doesn't see the yellow thermos with the Rosenheim sticker.) Next up is retired Hollywood set decorator Rudi Cox (Jack Palance, above right). He takes one sip and chokes, "What was that, poison?" The proprietor, Brenda (CCH Pounder, right) is skeptical, but when it's diluted with an equal part of hot water, it tastes just fine. When Jasmin finally arrives, she says “Stop. Not so much water!” It's perfect just the way it is.

- Nora

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The Celluloid Pantry

Nora Maynard is a freelance writer based in New York City. Her recent work has appeared in Salon, Drunken Boat, and The Millions. She recently completed her ninth marathon and her first novel, Burnt Hill Road. Nora wrote for The Kitchn from 2006 to 2011.

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