Our recent discussion of coffee substitutes brought "rice coffee" memories flooding back into the mind of Brig. Gen. Charles C. Drake, USA Ret.
"When I was a POW of the Japanese for three years," he wrote, "we had no coffee in our prison camps and we missed it.
"But we did have an American mess officer who devised the idea of roasting rice. There was plenty of that. In fact, it was all we got. When we lined up for chow call we had our canteen cups in our right hands, and when we passed him we got a steaming hot cup of 'rice coffee' instead of tea. It was delectable and met our needs completely. Try it."
Carl Ross also had some things to say about coffee substitutes. His opening comment was: "Did it ever occur to you that the maker of Postum also happens to be the largest coffee roaster in the country? Would it be just remotely possible that General Foods makes more money on coffee than on coffee substitutes?"
Well, yes. It did occur to me. But I saw no suspicious implications. Postum sales are minuscule compared to coffee sales. If a Postum shortage induced all of the world's Postum drinkers to switch to coffee. I doubt that they'd make a ripple in the coffee market. Besides, it is not likely that Postum drinkers would switch to coffee. Most are reformed coffee drinkers. Like smokers who quit, they don't want to get hooked again.
District Liner Ross also had some constructive suggestions to offer. Noting that I had quoted Giant Food's president, Joseph B. Danzansky, on the subject of the Postum shortage, Ross wrote:
"A person with the business acumen of Mr. Danzansky would have no difficulty in securing other substitutes. If he can't find them in this country, he may look around in France, Switzerland, and other lands. I read some place that an instant coffee substitute called 'Inka' is made in Poland. Apparently no sophisticated technology or major capital investment is needed to make it.
"I bought Postum once and just didn't like its taste. But I kept looking. In a Grand Union store I found chicory, packed in 6 1/2 oz. cartons at 39 cents. It is not an instant coffee substitute. I brew it in a percolator, just as I would ground coffee, pour the liquid concentrate into a jug and store it in the refrigerator.
"Whenever I want an enjoyable drink, I take a tablespoon of the chicory brew, add a pinch of instant coffee and a good helping of dried skim milk, and pour hot water over it. Store-bought chicory is the roasted root of the chicory plant, which is easy to grow. It is traditionally used as a coffee 'extender,' or perhaps I should say coffee 'enhancer.'"
Well, now that we have solved our coffee problem, let's hope Brazil's economy doesn't collapse overnight.