An ode to the iconic Greek coffee cup

The paper-goods professional knows this product by its reorder codename: the Anthora. The New Yorker knows it by its order codename: coffee.

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Coffee ice cream (Bill Hogan/Tribune photo / June 6, 2010)

The Greek urn may rank as civilization's highest achievement: a curvilinear fusion of form and function. The art historian ponders the ancient Greek urn while sipping coffee from the modern Greek urn: the paper cup.

Not any paper cup. The iconic blue-and-white version stamped with heroically steaming coffee and the immortal slogan: "We are happy to serve you." The paper goods professional knows this product by its reorder code name: the Anthora. The New Yorker knows it by its order code name: coffee. It's a highly regional cup. One filled millions of times a year.

Why the city that never sleeps needs an urn that never naps is for the sociologist to puzzle. Mortals know simply that about 50 years ago Leslie Buck — neither classicist, nor artist, nor Greek, but a sales manager at Sherri Cup Co. — sketched the blueprint. His cup became an instant classic.

The Anthora mixes high and low. Sugar and cream. Hot and cool.

The Anthora has been imitated. Recast in porcelain and vinyl. Reworked as T-shirt. Repurposed into coin purse. But its pleasing design remains unchanged. It captures the ancient Greek virtues of beauty, truth, symmetry and — at 8 ounces — moderation. It endures, as Keats would have it in his "Ode on a Grecian Urn," "For ever warm and still to be enjoy'd."

We raise a cup to coffee's finest vessel. And the late, of late, Leslie Buck, for making the New York morning 8 ounces happier.

Leah Eskin is a Tribune special contributor.

Coffee ice cream

Active: 20 minutes

Chill: Several hours

Makes: 4 servings

4 ounces milk chocolate, chopped

4 egg yolks

1 1/2 cups whipping cream

1 1/4 cups whole milk

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup (2 shots) prepared espresso

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1 Prep: Tumble chocolate into a medium bowl. Set aside. Pour egg yolks in another medium bowl. Whisk briefly.

2 Simmer: Measure cream, milk and sugar into a large saucepan. Set over medium-high heat and bring to a simmer.

3 Temper: Pour a little hot cream mixture over yolks, whisking constantly. Pour in the remaining cream mixture, whisking constantly. Pour back into the pan and heat, whisking constantly, until slightly thickened and 175 degrees, 3 minutes.

4 Freeze: Strain mixture into chocolate. Let steep, 3 minutes. Stir. Stir in espresso and vanilla. Let cool. Chill. Churn. Enjoy.

Provenance: Inspired by Alice Medrich's "Bittersweet."
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