And there are undeclared wars at the local dinner on the grounds as to who has the best sweet tea. I know, I have watched them transpire on the grounds of Hickory Hammock Baptist Church. And my great great grandfather is buried in the churchyard behind the church. So the ladies have been fighting over whos is best for many years.
Drinking sweet tea is one of the oldest and most exceptional Southern traditions. As Dolly Parton's character in Steel Magnolias puts it, it's the "house wine of the South"—a clear, orange-to-red tinted tea brewed from six or seven Lipton or Luzianne tea bags, poured hot onto a cup or more of sugar or a pool of simple syrup, and then diluted into a gallon pitcher in the fridge. It's served over a mound of ice in a huge glass—so cold that you can watch your napkin drown in a puddle of condensation.
Southerners, of course, have a taste for sugar that is demonstrably stronger than what you find up North. We like our pecan pie and pralines sweet enough to make the dentist cringe. All of the major soda companies—the Coca-Cola Co., PepsiCo, Dr Pepper—started in the South. Bourbon, that sweetest of whiskies, is from Kentucky. A mint julep, that classic Southern cocktail, is basically a whiskey'd up sweet tea, with mint, ice, simple syrup, and booze.
My stepdad, bless his heart, so loved his sweet tea. And he loved Po'Folks because they had the best biscuits and the best fried chicken and they had fried fish for my mom. I do miss him and sharing a meal at Po'Folks, even though that is is only time I would ever consider going there.
While my parents made us drink an unsweetened mint tea blend at home, I strong-armed them into stopping by Po Folks on the way home from baseball practice. A middling Southern-style chain (we didn't know enough to eat at Mary Mac's), known for horrible phonetic misspellings, heavily larded chicken, and, most importantly, sweet tea served in Mason Jars, it was practically the only place I could get hooked up properly—at least, that is, until I began raiding the always-full homemade pitchers in my friends' refrigerators.