Mark Twain traveled through France, Italy, Germany and other countries in the late 1800s. In Turkey he looked forward to a luxurious Turkish bath. It was a disaster, but he hoped for a miracle to the end. It was not to be.
"Then he [a 'skinny servitor'] brought the world-renowned Turkish coffee that poets have sung so rapturously for many generations, and I seized upon it as the last hope that was left of my old dreams of Eastern luxury. It was another fraud. Of all the unchristian beverages that ever passed my lips Turkish coffee is the worst. The cup is small, it is smeared with grounds; the coffee is black, thick, unsavory of smell, and execrable in taste. The bottom has a muddy sediment in it half an inch deep. This goes down your throat and portions of it lodge by the way, and produce a tickling aggravation that keeps you barking and coughing for an hour.
Here endeth my experience of the celebrated Turkish bath, and here endeth also my dream of the bliss the mortal revels in who passes through it. It is a malignant swindle."
From The Innocents Abroad, 1869
It was not just Turkish coffee that Mark Twain found lacking. He did not think highly of European food either; coffee perhaps least of all. He is used to an American breakfast – coffee and beefsteak.
“To particularize: the average American’s simplest and commonest form of breakfast consists of coffee and beefsteak; well, in Europe, coffee is an unknown beverage. You can get what the European hotel-keeper thinks is coffee, but it resembles the real thing as hypocrisy resembles holiness. It is a feeble, characterless, uninspiring sort of stuff, and almost as undrinkable as if it had been made in an American hotel. The milk used for it is what the French call ‘Christian’ milk – milk which has been baptized.
After a few months acquaintance with European ‘coffee’, one’s mind weakens, and his faith with it, and he begins to wonder if the rich beverage of home, with its clotted layer of yellow cream on top of it, is not a mere dream after all, and a thing which never existed.”
He goes on to excoriate the bread, “cold, tough and unsympathetic”, the butter “a sham”, roast chicken “as tasteless as paper”, the steak “it is a little overdone, is rather dry, it tastes pretty insipidly, it rouses no enthusiasm”.
One wonders how he managed to survive there.