I am a first generation Southerner. My mom and dad moved to Mississippi the year before I was born. So I may not be able to trace my lineage back to the plantation days, but take me back to my hometown and I can show you the hospital where I was born, every elementary school I attended and where I graduated high school. I can show you where my best friend lived, where I went to church, and the spot out at the lake where everyone used to go to make out. My parents still live in the very house I grew up in. I have ties here. It’s home.
One thing you will learn if you ever meet a Mississippian face-to-face is that we are fiercely proud. We acknowledge we have deep visible wounds that are still healing all these decades later. And there is nothing we can do to hide the fact that we have more than our fair share of warts. But if “you’re not from around here” and you have the audacity to get up on a high horse, I wouldn’t expect to ever make a single friend.
However, another thing you will learn is that we are also very gracious people. We are nicknamed “The Hospitality State” for a reason. Extroverts love our enthusiasm for making you feel welcome. Introverts are a little terrified by it. Relax, we want nothing from you. If we pass by you on the sidewalk or in the aisle at a grocery store, smile, and wish you a good morning – no, we’re not crazy. We genuinely mean it.
I wondered if sweet tea was too plain for a blog post; too low key. But then I realized that sweet tea had have its own blog post. It’s how we welcome you into our homes. It’s the life blood that binds us together.
I think this guy said it best:
In our dining rooms and diners, we stir together a handful of humble ingredients to produce an amber elixir that tastes like the South and feels like home.” – Tommy Tomlinson
He was talking about sweet tea in North Carolina, but his article sums it up beautifully. Once you read it, you’ll have an understanding.
Sweet tea is always served during family gatherings with my in-laws. It doesn’t matter if it’s Christmas Eve or Mother’s Day. My mother-in-law and her sisters each take turns hosting family events and it’s the hostess’s responsibility to make the tea. Each sister has her own recipe. Which brings me to my next point. Even though the basic recipe is the same – water, tea bags, and sugar – there are at least ninety thousand different methods for making a good glass of sweet tea and every mother, grandmother, son, and daughter swears that their tea recipe is the best. The recipe below belongs to The Husband’s Aunt J.
- 3 quarts cold water
- 4 regular black tea bags
- 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
- Bring water to a rolling boil in a large pan. Add tea bags. Reduce heat and simmer for two minutes. Remove from heat and allow to sit for 10-15 minutes. Remove tea bags and add sugar. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Add enough cold water to make a gallon.