Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Georgia Peach learns how to make Sweet Tea.

I was skipping through the Covington News website when I stumbled upon an article that not only made me laugh, but I identified with. The woman describes herself as "Not from Here" (even though she was raised in Alabama, her momma n' them were from New Jersey) and wasn't raised on our sweet elixir, but confesses that she has fallen in love with our traditional beverage: Sweet Tea.

I, however, was born and raised in Georgia. In fact, I am a 7th generation Georgia Peach on my Daddy's side. But when it came to the cooking in my childhood home, my Momma's Northern ancestors were a strong influence on how we prepared certain things. It wasn't until my sixteenth year, however, that I learned we didn't make real Southern Sweet Tea. (um, what?) It only took one sip of my now mother-in-law's nectar to open my eyes to what real Southern Sweet Tea tasted like. And it wasn't until a few years after that enlightening experience, watching her create that heaven-sent yumminess, that I understood how even the slightest modification to the process could change an elixir fit for the gods into nothing more than a flavored beverage. (I will confess here that we did a lot of steps wrong in the process, as you will see, but for the sake of the metaphor work with me.)

I grew up making "sweet tea" from Lipton Instant Iced Tea (gasps!) and artificial sweetener (the horror!) in cold water (well, I never!). How was I supposed to know that true Southern Sweet Tea could only be made by steeping the tea bags in just boiled water in a pot on the stove, dissolving the sugar in the still hot liquid, and leaving it to sit for a while before serving over a glass of ice?!? That's just not how I was taught. But believe me.... the product is worth the work. I had always wondered why just adding sugar to the "iced tea" (read unsweetened) they served in fancy restaurants never tasted right. It's because the sugar won't dissolve properly in cold water genius!

It was a true moment of revelation!

So, if you are "Not from Here" and are ever in a fancy restaurant that doesn't serve the best beverage that the South has to offer (and believe it or not there are some in the South like this, though for the life of me I don't see how they stay open) do not be surprised if a true Southerner in your party looks aghast. And please, whatever you do... do not tell them to just add some sugar to it. It is not the same. And you will receive a look from them that says either: "Bless your heart, you're not from here are you?" or "The Hell you say!"