One summer my cousins babysat my brother and me while we were out of school. I don’t remember the details, like if it was every day, where my parents were working at the time or even how old we were. And actually, the memories I have associated with that time may, in fact, be from summers stretched across a few years.

What I do remember are walks uptown to the drugstore, climbing the fence in the backyard to walk to the drive-in, listening to the great music of the 80s – and cooking disasters.

There for a while, the family had a grand old time laughing at our mistakes in the kitchen. I remember a broken garbage disposal, something baked without sugar, monster cookies (which most certainly were NOT a mistake – mmmm!) and a loaf of bread catching on fire in the microwave.

Now that I think about it, though, I’m pretty sure my brother and I were on our own when the microwave burst into flames. My mom never asked about the burnt spot in the door. And we never brought it up.

The cooking story from those summers that still cracks me up is about the time we made tea.

First of all, you need to know that my family is from the South. If you know nothing else about tea, I’m just sure you know that tea is – according to Miss Dolly Parton in Steel Magnolias – the house wine of the South. And my Granny (and my cousins’ Granny) made the best sweet tea you’ve ever had. The tea at our house wasn’t quite so sweet, but it was still our drink of choice. (Still is, although my mom has gotten fancy with some sort of raspberry flavoring.)

One day, my mom told my cousin to make a gallon of tea while she was watching us. And while she told her to put ¾ cup sugar in the tea, my cousin thought she said three or four cups of sugar.

Well, I won’t lie. I thought that tea was just perfect. After all, to me it tasted just like Granny’s tea! My mom was not so impressed. And to this day, we laugh about making tea with three or four cups of sugar.

I ran across a calendar of random holidays a couple weeks ago, and it turns out that today is National Iced Tea Day. And because I’m a dork (or, as Smitty put it recently, I “like researching everything under the sun”), I decided to look into the issue of tea.

According to Wikipedia (and who would know better), “the oldest printed recipes for iced tea date back to the 1870s. It is not unusual to read that iced tea was popularized, perhaps even created, at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis by Richard Blechynden, but this appears to be an urban legend.”

So don’t go perpetuating that World’s Fair myth, because Wikipedia says it’s just not true.

I’m not sure it really matters when iced tea was invented, because, as John Egerton said, “Iced tea is too pure and natural a creation not to have been invented as soon as tea, ice, and hot weather crossed paths.”

When it comes to sweet tea (or, I suppose we can say iced tea in general, but really, who needs dirty water, as my friend Hillary calls it?), some people really do go crazy.

There’s Kristen with We Are THAT Family, who blogged, Tweeted and vlogged herself into a cow costume for free sweet tea at Chick-fil-A.

And there’s my husband, who has recently gone on a city-wide search for Lipton PureLeaf Iced Tea. You can get the individual bottles of the magical stuff (Seriously, it’s good. It does not taste like bottled or pre-made tea at all.) at the gas station, but we really need a gallon of the stuff for that man. He is, after all, the one my mom makes an extra gallon of tea for at family dinners – setting the carafe (yes, we’re fayncee) next to his plate so she doesn’t have to get up and refill his glass half a dozen times while we eat.

And then there’s this: Anita Renfroe, singing an ode to sweet tea.

If you can’t view the embedded video, click here to watch Big Ol’ Sweet Ice Tea.

As C.S. Lewis said himself, “You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.” [And yes, I am going to let myself believe he’s talking about sweet iced tea, not that nasty hot stuff in the tiny porcelain cups.]

So, tell me, how do you take your iced tea? Sweet? Southern sweet? In a Mason jar? In a wine glass? Do you make sun tea on the back porch? Do you nuke your tea bags in the microwave? Do you add fruit like my mom, or drink it straight up (don’t even get my husband started on how much he detests lemon in his tea)?

Image by House of Sims


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