Balloon Animals and Clouds

I was making my wife's usual morning latte yesterday, as is my custom (yes, she is spoiled). After making a certain number of lattes, one starts to play around with the process. In my case, I'm slowly learning to make designs in the coffee. Oh, not well, I assure you, but designs nevertheless.

There's a coffee shop down the street that will make the beautiful fern pattern in the latte, and you're loathe to put in sugar and stir, much less drink it. And yet, I both stir and drink, so it can't be that beautiful. Still, I feel a little guilty.

I cannot make any patterns like that, certainly not with that kind of repeatability. However, yesterday I made an image of a phoenix rising from the coffee grounds. If you turned the image upside down (relative to the base of the image, not so that the coffee pours out), the negative space looked like a Peep. Yes, I really am that good.

Today, I decided to do something much simpler, and just made an ordinary Peep. It wasn't hard, just jiggle the foam in the right way, and voila!

"But Brian," you cry out, "you said you weren't very good! How do you do these amazing things? All I get are ferns, or images of the Virgin Mary." There's a secret that you can learn from people who make balloon animals. The important thing, they say, is not to announce your balloon intentions to the child beforehand. If you say, "I'm going to make you a cat", then twist the balloons all up, they'll be like, "no, that's deformed rabbit." However, if you make the balloon animal, annotating it along the way, and say, "So, what does that look like?" They'll say, "That's the best giraffe I've ever seen!" You'll know you were trying for the Fierce Lion, but the kids won't. So they'll be happy, and you'll be a little more bitter inside, wondering why you are still paying those loans on the art college you went to.

Coffee art, for the beginner, is just like that. Push the foam a little this way, a little that way, and look at it like you would clouds. If you can spot a design easily, say, "Look what I've made!" If not, don't worry about it.

Eventually, perhaps I'll get a degree of control with the whole process, and can make ferns all day long. But I think I'll prefer a bit of balloon artistry to a fern, even if I do become skilled. After all, most of the fun is in the interpretation.