This week I finished off another coffee can of Cafe du Monde. As always, I washed the can out and saved it.
It is stainless steel, as all of them seem to be - which remains to my complete surprise: given the way the world works now, I would have thought almost everything would have converted to plastic at this point.
Steel coffee cans hold a treasured place in my memory. When I was young and we would go to The Ranch when my Great Aunt and Uncle owned it, I would wander out to the barn, a three bay wooden structure with a shop on the side. It was a marvelous collection of things to a young boy: bits and parts of tools, odd furniture, item which I realize (only now) were of family historical significance (there was an entire blacksmith shop, if I had known it at the time).
Scattered throughout the barn were steel coffee cans, most of the faded and a bit rusted, holding tools or nuts or parts of things. The pictures on the side were never any brands I had heard of on the television; old brands that had long disappeared or logos that had been redesigned. Having fulfilled their primary purpose, they had been repurposed and sat, silently waiting and slowly rusting, serving the purpose of my Aunt and Uncle and promising mystery to a young boy.
And so, I keep my coffee cans.
They have their own uses here as well, of course. Holding things in the garage, but they have converted to other things over the years. Planters. Ticket holders. Small containers for the harvest when I need something right away.
I do the same when I am at The Ranch and have built up a stash there as well. Eventually they will migrate down to our Barn, where they will likely fulfill the same purpose.
Could I use plastic containers? Of course. But there is something that, to me, is magical about an empty steel coffee can, something that no plastic coffee can has ever offered me. Perhaps it is the sense that plastic is now "common" and "common place". Perhaps it is that steel coffee cans (the painted ones, which are by far the best instead of the plastic wrapped) preserve visual history in a way that I can see and remember.
Or, perhaps, it is because steel coffee cans bear with it a wealth of memories that remain after the coffee is gone.