As I write this mid-afternoon on the last day of June 2020 the heat index has already reached 100 degrees and we have several more hours for it to climb. The air is filled with the Sahara dust that has travelled all the way across the Atlantic Ocean to fill the big, bright Texas sky with haze and the air with, well with dust. So what do we do for comfort? We drink iced tea all afternoon.
It isn’t just a Texas solution to the heat. It is a Southern tradition and I’m proud to say that I grew up with iced tea on the table for lunch (or dinner as it was called) and for supper (that is what most people refer to as dinner). We drank it sweet with optional lemon and my family drank it faithfully no matter where we lived and what the weather outside might be. We didn’t drink it in between meals though, but that is a habit that I now find to be quite satisfying.
Yes, ice tea has to be one of the things I love. I don’t care if it is sweet or un-sweet, green, cranberry, or mango, but I do prefer black pekoe. Just no “diet” tea, please. I’ve loved tea from the time I was a baby and suspect that I was given sweet tea in a bottle (yes, parents did things like that when I was small. They put Kool-Aid in bottles, too!).
I remember my grandmother making tea and how beautiful it would look with the morning sun shining through the glass pitcher. Every morning as she began to wash the breakfast dishes she would boil water for that day’s tea. She did not drink tea, but everyone else did. She would always make one pitcher, but if a lot of family was present then she made another, smaller pitcher, too. The tea was made with well water; my father always claimed that it was the best water in the world (except when the red Mississippi rust/dirt slipped into the pipes) and I’m sure that contributed to the beauty of the tea as well as the taste.
When I was there she would let me count out the tea bags and open them. Mamaw would put the sugar in the bottom of the pitcher and pour the boiling water over the sugar and the tea bags. To keep the pitcher from cracking she would put a long metal cooking spoon in the pitcher before she poured the water in. I would be allowed to stir the tea with the spoon to dissolve the sugar. The tea would darken into a beautiful reddish-golden color while it swirled gently in the pitcher.
Ice for the tea didn’t come out of ice trays when a lot of family was present. One of the men would go to the ice house (not a convenience store as we know them today locally) and bring home a block of ice in an ice chest. Just before we ate a meal one of the men would go to the utility room with an ice pick and chip out a chunk of ice and then put it in a large wooden bread bowl and break it into chips. A block of ice would usually last about two days. I remember going along on an ice run once or twice but the big dark ice house was scary and the big burly men working there also scared me. I would usually decline the offer to go! Let’s just say I love the ice maker in my refrigerator’s freezer!
Yes, let’s add ice tea to the list of small, simple joys of life!