Monsieur Gounon had it relatively good. Married in his twenties, he was the father of a healthy daughter and his wife believed that she was pregnant with a second child. But this felicitous state hid a debauched past: “I loved women with a passion. I sported my whole life and I drank much wine and drank coffee continually.”
Wine, women…. and coffee?
Today, it’s the drug of choice. I would wager a guess that millions of North Americans (or Europeans for that matter) can’t leave the home without it. From the instant granules of Nescafe to locally roasted ethical beans, coffee is a going concern. Tim Horton’s, Starbucks, Blenz … coffee is central to our contemporary ethos. It was also, along with hot chocolate and wine, one of the keys to the good life in eighteenth-century France as well, and particularly among the elite. Tissot, however, did not approve, finding in these drinks the source of debauchery and excess. Like the contemporary simple living guru, Tissot counselled moderation in all things, but especially in diet and sexual relations. Only in controlling the appetite could the individual achieve the balance and equilibrium necessary for a healthy and virtuous life.
Coffee and chocolate have, however, proven enduring.
Perhaps we need to look more closely at the moral implications of Bach’s light hearted Coffee Cantata. What might Lieschen’s addiction to coffee – articulated in her amorous aria in homage to the beverage – reveal about her moral stance?