Wednesday, August 08, 2007

I Drink Mine by the Gallon

At Lil' Dizzy's on Esplanade.

For those of you who don't know, there ain't a whole lot of sweet tea where I'm at right now. One of the greatest cultural shocks of moving to this cultural jewel of the South was the fact that folks here call me "hillbilly" and "the closest thing to a redneck they know," and that when I ask for tea at a restaurant, it comes as a shock that I have to sweeten it myself. I have been here 10 months, and you'd think I would have learned by now.

From my nuanced palate of the 'house wine of the South', the best in New Orleans can be found at Dunbar's, which is simply so sweet you may pass out when the sugar high fades after lunch. The brew you can consume at Elizabeth's in the bywater is acceptable and tasty. Sweet tea flavored beverages can be found at Voodoo BBQ or Raising Cane's. For the sake of reputations and friendships, we'll not discuss what happened at the burrito stand when some sort of concoction labeled 'sweet tea' was made without my direct consultation and involvement.

But the winner of the 'most like home' sweet tea belongs to Lil' Dizzy's on Esplanade. Not too sweet, not too thin: jus' right. The kind of sweet tea that turns a crappy morning into a fine day and defines why we serve the stuff around sustenence we label 'soul food.'

Yeah, it is that important.


Unknown said...

There's a TON of sweet tea where you're at right now compared to 15-20 years ago. I grew up in Dallas and we spent more than a few weekends in Shreveport for the horse races as well as a few weekends in South Texas for the beach and Oklahoma for the lake. Sweet tea existed at Grandys and some Chick-Fil-As. And that's it. These days, there's at least a few places in any given town in the southern midwest where you can get proper sweet tea. I still occasionally get caught off guard when I'm at a restaurant in Dallas and I ask for tea and they actually ask "Sweet or unsweet?"

I tried to explain to some Southerns one time how odd it is for midwesterners to grasp the idea of sweet tea and the best I could come up with was it would be similar to asking for sweet coffee at a diner. One particular southerner who shall remain nameless actually responded to the idea of sweet coffee with, "But the sweetener is right there," failing to realize that the same could be said of sweet tea.

Cousin Pat said...

I don't know why, but I just got this image of a particular southerner, with black hair and thick glasses and a smarter-than-you attitude, sittin' at the Waffle House, camel in hand, telling you "but the sweetner is right there!"

Leigh C. said...

Yeah, sweet tea is an alien concept for southeastern Louisianians. Head up to Ruston and thereabouts, though, and you'll find it again. I gar-an-tee.

m.d. said...

Funny thing about sweet coffee.

My wife's family in Brazil makes coffee by boiling water in a pot and passing it through a filter full of coffee grinds into a container.

Before they pass the water through the filter, they put sugar in the water.

There you go. Sweet coffee.


Charlotte Hamrick said...

I kinda gave up on sweet tea here...none of it is as good as mamma's.

Another thing: real cornbread does not have sugar in it or butter on it! Or is that just a Mississippi thing?

I like reading your "real south" comments - lol!

Auntie ChaCha from Mississippi

Cousin Pat said...

I could spend my life exploring the many variations of Southern culture alone and it would not be a wasted life. Lord knows it would never be boring!

Far as cornbread is concerned, there are more variations then I can think of. I've had almost white cornbread that was very, very dry - you'd put butter on that. I've had very moist and cake like cornbread that was gold in color, was made with sugar, sweet corn kernels and cracklin's and needed no butter on it. I've even had it crumbled up in a glass of cold buttermilk, but that was so thick I didn't need to eat for the rest of the day.

Best cornbread I've ever had was from the 4th of May restaurant on Island City. Very similar to the second example I gave above (gold, cake-like, sugar & corn). That stuff is so good, I brought two or three pans to the Auburn vs UGA Legendary Tailgate of 2005, and there were no leftovers to speak of.

Cousin Pat said...

RE: sweet coffee. I have friends from the Navy who do the same thing with coffee - except it isn't sugar they use, it is a pinch of salt.

But now I know how I'm going to make my coffee in the morning. Bet that's going to tear up some coffeemakers, though.

DADvocate said...

One of my biggest gripes about Ohio and other northerly areas is the lack of sweet tea. Go north of the Ohio River and restaurants expect you to put sugar in your tea yourself. Horrid!!

But once you're south of the Ohio you find civility and hospitality almost everywhere. I hardly ever get as far south as NOLA, however.

Charlotte Hamrick said...

Cracklin' bread -- yum! I haven't had that in years, I'll have to have mamma make me some when I visit in a few weeks.
Cornbread in buttermilk -- yes, I have that sometimes still.
You need to taste my homemade cornbread!

Auntie ChaCha from Mississippi aka Charlotte

Charlotte Hamrick said...

Oh! How about some good ole boiled peanuts?????

Cousin Pat said...

Oh. Boiled Peanuts. Let me tell you about one snack food I can absolutely make myself sick on. Best I've ever had are at McGarvey's Wee Pub in the downtown of Brunswick, Georgia, and I can't tell you how many times I stopped in there just for the free bowl of boiled peanuts to wash down my beer.

Too many folks make them just salty, and not enough spicy. Now that I've had the spicy variety, I can't in good taste, go back to the bland version.

liberalandproud said...

I actually slipped the other day and ordered "tea" at Sweet Mama's. Luckily, I tasted it before adding sweetener. Of course it was Sweet Tea. I love that the iced tea you get around here is automatically sweet. If you want it unsweet, you have to ask for it. Speakin' of which, isn't it about time for some Georgia legislator to try to push through another of those "Mandatory Sweet Tea in Restaturants" bills?