I’m a Southern transplant, although I have to confess I lived in the South for only a few short months before I started walking. I’ve lived as a Yankee for almost my entire life. Honestly, I don’t tend to dwell on age old grudges, divisive politics or cultural differences very much at all. A few minutes here and there each year tends to satisfy the odd Confederate impulse. Usually after a season of watching Swamp People.
Until summer arrives.
Then every Southern part of me converges in full force in the form of Sweet Tea. Growing up, I had no idea that there was a different type of tea that did not involve a cup and a half of sugar per gallon. Mom made sun tea by floating tea bags in a gallon of water outside in the heat of the sun. Or she simply boiled a two quart pot and added the tea bags and then an equal amount of cold water. Either way, she added plenty of sugar.
The first time I ordered tea in a restaurant (in a Northern state of course), I thought my mouth would simply shrivel up with the sourness. I can still remember the horror. The last time I visited my relatives I noticed that many Southern restaurants will actually distinguish Sweet Tea from any other – and in my opinion flat out awful – tea. I’m sure this is due to the emphasis on healthy living these days. Which I am all for, as long as it doesn’t involve my beloved Sweet Tea.
I don’t drink it year round. My Southern side tends to rise with the temperature. Come October, it will fade and wait patiently for that first hot day again.
I think it has something to do with the fact that we visited my relatives during the summer months. It was like visiting a foreign country. I come from a long line of coal miners and farmers. Down to earth. Hardworking. Family at its core.
We’d all gather at my great-grandmother’s house. It had four rooms and a root cellar. Metal folding chairs were set all over her front yard – thirty at a minimum. Kids running and screaming. At least one dog and usually a couple of the wild cats she could never quite get rid of kept us kids entertained. Tables were set up and platters and bowls and plates of the most delicious fried, baked and boiled food competed for every inch of available space. And gallons of Sweet Tea. At night we’d chase fireflies, listen to stories of days long passed until we couldn’t keep our eyes open for a second longer.
I still see fireflies and hear a soft drawl every time I drink a glass of Sweet Tea.
How about you? Any favorites from your youth that you still enjoy today?