We like to gripe about how crappy the economy is, but even in the depths of the recession that struck in 2008, Americans, by and large, didn’t have it so bad.
Then, as now, millions continued to go to the House of the Evil Mermaid to purchase $4.50 lattes. But when times are tough, you don’t drink latte or cappuccino - you drink good old American coffee.
And when times are really tough, coffee becomes hard - or impossible - to get. That’s when coffee substitutes start getting popular.
Any number of substances can be used to stretch a meager supply of coffee, or to replace it outright. Roasted chicory root is probably one of the better known coffee extenders, having been a mainstay of Louisiana cuisine for years... probably owing to coffee shortages during the War Between the States. And C. W. Post made a fortune selling Postum, an instant beverage made from wheat bran, wheat, molasses, and corn-based maltodextrin. Postum was not marketed as a coffee substitute but rather as a healthier, caffeine-free alternative to coffee... which made sense, because it in no way tasted like coffee. It was unique; I liked it and would go through periods of weeks when I would even prefer it to other hot beverages.
Coffee substitutes are still popular in Germany, possibly due to a perverse nostalgia for World War II food scarcity. The generic German term for ersatz coffee - Muckefuck - is amusing to the English speaker, but it is no more than a corruption of the French expression mocca faux - fake coffee.
Take that, muckefucker!
These days, I’ll enjoy the occasional cup of French Market coffee with chicory - it’s a tasty version of my favorite hot drink, best made strong enough to stand a spoon in. But no way will I tolerate substitutes for my other favorite hot beverage: chocolate. Lips that touch carob shall never touch mine!