Monday, April 30, 2007

Sweet Tea

I like my tea sweet. I'm not sure if it's a southern thang or not but sweet tea is not an option at most places I've been outside the south - "all we have is unsweetened, there is sweet & low there on the table." I rarely say this, but I'd rather have sharp burning bamboo shoots jammed underneath my fingernails than drink any kind of artificial sweetener. What I usually say is - just water please.
My mama would have a fit if she heard me say this, but the sweet tea that she used to make was not my favorite. I think she used Lousiane tea but our neighbor Lois, who was distant relative, made sweet tea right.
It was in the early 60's and she had a coal fired stove on which she cooked meals winter, spring, summer and fall. The winter and fall was not bad, but it was cooler in Hades than inside that kitchen in the summer.
She had a house full of kids so she started cooking about mid-morning. I would often find myself sitting on her back porch gazing in through the screen door as she moved about the kitchen. She had a metal pot that was almost black from years of use which was used to heat the water for the gallon of tea. She'd boil the water then let the Lipton tea steep for about five minutes before mixing it with just the right amount of sugar. When she stirred the tea, you could watch the sugar swirl like the tiny snowflakes in a snow globe until it disappeared completely.
At about 11:30 she'd call in all the kids to eat things like butter beans, hominy, cream corn, and fried okra. She had a big ol' skillet and cooked a pone of cornbread as big a round as a large Pizza Hut Pizza. The smell of baking cornbread has to be how heaven smells at dinner time.
My mother threatened me and my older brother and sister with dismemberment if we ate with them. "They didn't take y'all to raise," she warned. Lois would always ask us in to eat, but we rarely did. However we always accepted the big old glass of sweet tea that she offered. In the summertime, the ice cubes would pop as they warmed. Thirst didn't stand a chance against that tea.
Today, I used Jilda's recipe to make a jug of sweet tea and I sat out on the screened in side porch to watch the birds in the waining light. My tea tasted good, but was it as good as the tea that Lois made? Maybe a close second, cause the fond memory of Lois' sweet tea is hard to beat.

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