Thursday, August 23, 2007

Brown sugar....

Thanks to the Rolling Stones for the lyric. I've always had a soft spot for that song, having lived in Memphis.

Sorry for not being here yesterday, y'all, I've been feeling a bit under the weather the last few days, and decided to use my day off to crash. Much to my husband's chagrin, I didn't even take care of loading the dishwasher. I just took TFYO to school, and crashed out on the bed surrounded by cats. I feel better this morning, but I'm going got the doctor next week, just in case. You all are so sweet, worrying about me! It's funny how we all get used to seeing each other every day. I did pop in to read a couple of your blogs and comments very quickly yesterday. Maybe I have food poisoning, too, Jo!

Speaking of food, on to the post.

There is simply nothing so Southern as "sweet tea". For those of you not in the know, "sweet tea" is really iced tea,'s also not.

The first time I had sweet tea was when I moved to Alabama from Michigan. I had ordered an iced tea to go with my lunch, and the waitress dutifully brought me a glass filled to the brim with a lovely dark liquid. It looked good and strong, which is how I like it. I took a sip. Then I gagged.

It tasted like it had been sweetened with corn syrup, and then I realized it probably had.

I grew up drinking hot tea, made in a pot, either loose or in bags, served with sugar and milk. Canadians are moving more towards coffee now (can anyone say Tim Horton's?), but the older generation loves its tea. My great-grandmother made me sit down for tea at ten a.m. and four p.m. every day I spent with her as a child. And it was glorious. Little sandwiches with the crusts cut off, and marvelous pastries she'd made herself. Yum.

When I moved to the states, we drank iced tea, and it was okay. Usually it was pre-made Nestea, which is really just brown lemonade.

And then came the South, with it's wonderful and weird ways.

I love grits. And I adore greens with ham hock. I even have started to like banana pudding (nanner puddin' for those of you speaking southern today), if it's not too sweet. But I can't drink sweet tea.

And it's made me somewhat of an outcast.

I love going out to eat with my in-laws because the drink order always goes like this:

"Sweet tea." "I'll have a sweet tea." "Sweet tea, please." "One for me, too." "I'll have unsweet tea, please."

And that point, it gets deathly quiet, inevitably someone drops a piece of flatware, and the waiter or waitress stares at me, with pencil poised above pad as if I'd just asked for a slice of boiled puppy.

Then my father-in-law will rescue me with a quick "Oh, she's from up north." And then a sly grin crosses his face, "She's a foreigner."

The the waitress will usually bring me little packets of artificial sweetener, and look horrified when I tell her I don't need them. I drink my tea straight, just a slice of lemon. I know it sounds odd, but ever since that first taste of sweet tea eleven years ago, my taste buds shudder at the thought of putting sweetener in my tea. I find it more refreshing without it. And Luzianne tea really seems to be the official tea of the south. It does make very good iced tea, very clear, very strong. I just don't like sugar in it.

My aversion to sweet tea is really the only thing that marks me out down here now. More often than not, my speech is coloured by a soft southern accent, and I can cook with the best of them. I even have a recipe for sweet tea that I make when the in-laws come to visit. But when they're not here, by husband just has to deal with the pitcher of unsweet tea glaring at him from the fridge. I offer to make a sugar syrup to sweeten it for him, but he just sighs, and drinks it straight likes his foreigner wife. Her and her strange northern ways.


bellevelma said...

I hear you on the sweet tea. Yuck! My uncle in the south used to make sweet tea all the time but they didn't want the added calories of a real sweetner so they used one of the liquid artificial sweetners. Talk about nasty. I used to cry when we visited them and that's all they had to drink at dinner. Yuck, yuck, yuck! Liquid poison was more like it.

Hope you're feeling better!

Willowtree said...

And that's why if an Australian tells a joke in a room full of Americans and Canadians, the Canadians will laugh. Trust me, I spent years travelling and I know this for a fact.

Aussies and Canadians (well at least the Anglophones) share similar cultural backgrounds, morning and afternoon tea for a start! One for each person and one for the pot.

The Rotten Correspondent said...

As someone who has spent a huge amount of her life in Alabama I'm with you on the sweet tea. Loathe it! And most of my family thought I was a freak. I adore grits and greens, and unlike you can't get enough okra, but the sweet tea and red eye gravy are what gives me away for a "foreigner"
It's odd because I can take or leave sugar in hot tea, but not in iced.

Where in Michigan did you live, BTW? I lived there until I was 8 and spent summers with my dad there until college. Just curious.

Glad you're up and about. I have to admit I was worried!

code - msdfsya - WTF??

auntie barbie said...

The hubby & I learned to love sweet tea while living in Texas. I make mine with simple syrup, as I was taught by an old Texan. All summer long you will find a gallon of it in my fridge. I do think the Luzianne tea is good, but I can't stop buying the Red Rose. It is the tea of my childhood, and I can't resist the little figurines.
Having spent much of my youth in Canada I still have a cup of hot tea in a china mug on winter afternoons.
Sorry to hear your not feeling well, maybe you caught TFYO's bug, or maybe your pregnant ;)

Jo Beaufoix said...

Glad you're back sweetie.
Hope you're feeling better.
I'm a bit better everyday. It's just so annoying though isn't it, you get a day off and you feel rough.

Is iced tea just normal tea, but cold?
I'm not very cultured in the area of tea.

I do like a cuppa, but never cold.

Code word 'gjfldwrr' - I think it's the sound clocks make when you drop them in the bath.

Feel better soon. said...

Can't say I have had much experience with sweet tea (one sip along time ago - it was nasty) but I have a tea story. Both of my parents are Italian but mom immigrated to the States from London where she was raised. With her came many of her British habits. One of them was serving us tea and biscuits when we got home from school. Every other kid was having milk and chocolate cookies. I never knew any better until high school. I still like my tea mid day but coffee is the jump start I need in the morning. Black and unsweetened.

Anonymous said...

I seem to be in the opposite position over here on my end of the continent. Unlike southerners there, most southern Californians drink their ice tea unsweetened. However, I'm almost embarrassed to admit that I truly love sweet tea. My former mother-in-law was from Arkansas and had it all the time, but now days I can only find it (true sweet tea, not iced tea with sweetener in it!) around here at a few southern-style BBQ restaurants - my favorite being, by the way, Lucille's, here in Long Beach.

Jen said...

bellevelma Urgh, if there's one thing worse than sweet tea, it's tea with liquid artificial sweetener. I'd have cried, too.

WT I've always felt Canadians and Aussies had a bit of kinship. The "one for the pot" thing was drummed into my head from an early age!

RC If I drink hot tea, I need sweetener in it, usually honey or sugar. I do love red eye gravy, made with strong coffee on biscuits with country ham. Incredibly salty, and yummy. Sorry! For Michigan, I lived in the Detroit 'burbs from 1989 until 1993, and then moved to Kalamazoo for college. Maybe the code word means you missed me?

Auntie Barbie My friend Jill brings down huge boxes of Red Rose tea bags for me when she comes to visit. I use it for my hot tea. But Luzianne makes the best iced's crystal clear, and never looks muddy. As for everything comment.

Jo, yeah, it's just tea, but cold. Served in a tall glass with ice, no milk. I find it tastes nothing like a cuppa.

Mike I know what you mean about the after school snack. It was the same in my house. I've been drinking tea since I was just little.

jrh! Glad to see you, you've been gone a bit. You have real 'cue in Southern California? I don't believe it! Memphis style? St. Louis style? C'mon! Give up the goods!

Poetess said...

In Britain a cup of tea can make everything better. Hope it works for you.


Diana said...

I've never had sweet tea, which I'm curious to try, but think I'll be with you as I don't care for sugar in my tea, only a bit of milk in it if it's hot. (Being new here, I missed that you're Canadian! I'm married to a Canuck. He hates the heat, so Wisconsin is as far south as he likes to go. (Although I did get him to go to Hawaii with me. Once.) Cheers!