Sweet Tea

11 Jul

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.Β 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?


Posted by on July 11, 2012 in Idaho


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19 responses to “Sweet Tea

  1. Clarissa Southwick

    July 11, 2012 at 6:49 AM

    What a timely post, Meredith! I just got back from Texas where we seemed to stop at every barbecue pit we passed. I won’t eat Mexican anywhere else because other places seem to put too much lime in everything. It’s funny how the tastes we grew up with stay with us all our lives.

    • Meredith Allen Conner

      July 11, 2012 at 9:42 PM

      Totally true. There is a barbecue place in Kentucky – Moonlight Barbecue – that is a MUST every time we visit πŸ™‚

  2. Janis McCurry

    July 11, 2012 at 7:14 AM

    I’m guilty of fond memories of Spam! I get it’s not considered in a food group as such, but we’d have it fried for breakfast with toast and then as sandwiches for lunch. Melt cheese over that fried bit of salty goodness and I can still remember it. Every time I go to the grocery store and down the tuna fish aisle, there it is. I never buy a whole can because Spam is not something I’d use up quickly. Then, a couple of years ago, the maker started putting out 1 slice packaging. I still haven’t succumbed to buying it, because a) it’s horridly expensive for 1 slice and b) then I’d have a whole loaf of bread I’d have to buy and then c) I’d eat hot, buttery toast every day until it was gone and d) that’s not good for me.

    My name is Janis and I love Spam.

    • Meredith Allen Conner

      July 11, 2012 at 9:44 PM

      You know Janis we could start our own “guilty pleasures anonymous”. I’ll go next: My name is Meredith and I love Sweet Tea. And watching Swamp People. And Cinnamon Bears. And . . . hmm, looks like I’ll be at this a while πŸ™‚

  3. stephaniebergets

    July 11, 2012 at 9:33 AM

    Spam, one of my favorites. I try not to give in either, but I remember fried Spam and tomato sandwiches.
    We had huge family gatherings at my grandmother’s house with the folding chairs, tables made of saw horses and wood planks. My cousins and I ran and played until we couldn’t move. And the food.

    • Meredith Allen Conner

      July 11, 2012 at 9:47 PM

      Family gatherings and food – you just can’t have one without the other. I have never tried Spam. I may have to reconsider that after this.

  4. MK Hutchins (@mkhutchins)

    July 11, 2012 at 10:26 AM

    Rodger’s Golden Syrup. My grandparents are from Canada, and everytime someone took a trip up north, they’d bring back the honey-thick, richly flavored stuff. I didn’t realize you couldn’t easily find the stuff in the states until I was twelve.

    • Meredith Allen Conner

      July 11, 2012 at 9:48 PM

      My husband is from Vermont. He is very picky about the grade of his maple syrup. I’d always been fond of Mrs. Buttercup myself πŸ™‚

  5. florence fois

    July 11, 2012 at 11:27 AM

    Meredith, my introduction to southern sweet tea was in Brooklyn. A good friend, born and raised in the south, informed me that she would make me a proper cup of tea. Then there were the Irish who also wanted me to have a proper “cupper” of tea, not made with those nasty bags.

    My fondest memories of summer were going into my aunt’s vegie garden to pick fresh tomatoes for our evening salad … we also picked the greens and the rhubarb for her strawberry/rhubarb pie. Even though our part of the family didn’t live in the country … but in Brooklyn … I might have been the only girl in my JHS and HS who worked each summer with her parents, “putting up” peaches and other delights in mason jars. And how great it was in the dead of winter to open those jars and smell and taste a bit of summer πŸ™‚

    These days, my best treat is sweet, black espresso … the kind my dad taught me to brew.

    • Meredith Allen Conner

      July 11, 2012 at 9:49 PM

      My mother still cans a lot of her food. I don’t think I could live without her pickled beets. Yum.

  6. marsharwest

    July 11, 2012 at 4:03 PM

    Nice description, Meredith, of another time and place. I could see it as if in a movie. One of my memories is of visiting my mother’s family and eating Geogia Bar-B-Q. This is not like the Texas kind. The stuff from GA is mustard based. As a kid I really didn’t like it. My mother loved it though, and we made sure to eat it a couple of times a visit. Somehow as an adult it’s become a taste I love. Any time we visit cousins back east, I get GA Bar-B-Q. Despite growing up with Sweet Tea, I like it plane now. I’ll get those calories some place else, thank you very much. Nice post.

    • Meredith Allen Conner

      July 11, 2012 at 9:51 PM

      Thanks Marsha. I keep telling myself I’ll switch to using Splenda but it just seems so wrong! Barbecue from the South – there is nothing like it.

  7. Lynn Mapp

    July 11, 2012 at 5:55 PM

    The south. As a teen I spent two weeks in Louisiana. When I returned to California, after only two weeks, I knew how to address my elders. It wasn’t what, or yeah. It took weeks of strange looks for me to regress.

    • Meredith Allen Conner

      July 11, 2012 at 9:52 PM

      My daughters are hit and miss with the “yes ma’ams” and “yes sirs”. More hit when they are with my mother πŸ™‚

    • marsharwest

      July 12, 2012 at 9:06 AM

      Oh, my gosh. Thanks for that memory, Lynn. My father was in the Air Force, so I grew up all over. Most places didn’t emphasize the “ma’ams and sirs” the way Mother’s “people” did. I can remember several times when I didn’t “ma’am” my Granny the way the cousins did, and Mother let me know her displeasure. Sadly, I didn’t insist on that with my own kids. Times change. πŸ™‚

  8. Liz Fredericks

    July 12, 2012 at 6:38 AM

    My mother’s ‘people’ are from the south (they’re never referred to as family – jus’ as his people and her people and my daddy’s people – very southern thing). They were very poor, most with no more than 8th grade under their belt and very proud. I remember meals were beans, greens and a little bit of ‘bacon’ (fatback, I believe). Corn bread wasn’t a part of a meal as much as it was part of a religious ritual cuz ‘a body’d die on up wit-out da bread’ (I can hear aunt josie’s voice)

    I know I’m not supposed to write accents – one of the writing rules, I’m learning – but dayam.

  9. ValRoberts

    July 12, 2012 at 8:58 AM

    Isn’t it funny how different things evoke memories? The smoke in the air today says summer to me, and there’s always an undercurrent of anxiety with the nostalgia. My father worked for the Boise National Forest, and was part of the Boise Interagency Fire Center (before it morphed into the National Interagency Fire Center sometime after he retired).

    Every summer — sometimes in May, sometimes not until the end of June — thunderstorms would move through the valley and into the mountains…Dad would get a call at 2 a.m. (or 3, or 4, but always o-dark-thirty), grab the pre-packed bag/backpack and disappear for two weeks, because that’s how much clean underwear fit into the pack. Some years, he came home long enough to swap packs (yes, we had two go-kits and one was always ready) and we didn’t see him until the Autumn rains started.

    And that smell — burning pine mixed with burning sagebrush — brought it all back with one sniff.

  10. maryvine

    July 14, 2012 at 4:32 PM

    Looks like you have a pingback here, Meredith.
    My husband and I both remember our parents getting a gallon of A & W root beer and taking it home to drink. Yum.
    I don’t know why, but I like having a pitcher of lemonaide during the summer months. Fun blog post.


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