Thursday, May 22, 2008

McDonald's Goes Southern, Y'all

Southerners have long vowed that "The South shall rise again."

Who'd have thought that the resurrection would take place at McDonald's?

Mickey D's has introduced the "Southern Style Chicken Sandwich" at more than 15,000 locations. I don't think Southern Californians know what to make of the sandwich, which consists of a bun, a deep fried filet of chicken and two pickles. No mustard. No mayo. No secret sauce. It's drier than a Southern state on Sunday.

To find out what makes this dry concoction "Southern," I consulted my Georgia Peach of a Niece, Emily. She responded, "We have Mr. Truett Cathy founder of Chick-Fil-A to thank. Apparently he invented the chicken sandwich. That is how Chick-Fil-A has been serving their chicken sandwiches since they opened, 'a juicy chicken breast served on a bun with two crucial pickles.' Top it off with a sweet tea and you are in Southern heaven."

I've never been to Chick-Fil-A, and I don't plan on ordering the McDonald's version, but I have consumed a few gallons of sweet tea in my lifetime. Known as the "house wine of the South," sweet tea is a staple of Southern hospitality. McDonald's apparently decided to help customers wash down those dry chicken sandwiches by introducing sweet tea at select locations in Southern California.

What's wrong with this picture? Do sweet tea and lemon go together?

With memories of sweet tea from my West Virginia youth dancing in my head, I cruised through McDonald's and ordered a 24 oz. serving for $1 at the Altadena location on Woodbury Drive. I took one swig of the sweetened brew and poured the rest down the drain. By Southern standards (i.e. the sweeter, the better), I'm sure this must rank high, but it was too much sugar for my lemon-loving taste buds.

But I couldn't stop thinking about sweet tea. It brought back memories of trout fish fries in our old Penn St. neighborhood in Clarksburg, West Virginia. Or sweet tea and my Japanese mother's famous spaghetti and meat balls. (Yes, like a good, cheap wine, sweet tea can be paired with anything.) Or the sweetest memory of all - swinging on my grandmother's front porch with my best friend Charleen. We'd swing and swig from a Mason jar of sweet tea for hours on a hot, humid summer day.

So I've been making my own less sugary version of sweet tea at home. (I use a half cup of sugar per half gallon instead of a cup.) The secret of sweet tea is the simple syrup that insures that the sugar is completely dissolved.

Susan's Swing & Swig Sweet Tea
1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
six tea bags

Bring the cup of water to a boil. Add 1/2 cup of sugar and stir to dissolve. Remove pot from heat. Add six tea bags and steep for approximately half hour.

Remove tea bags. Pour brewed tea into a half gallon pitcher and fill with water.

Fill a glass or Mason jar with plenty of ice and fill to the rim with sweet tea. Garnish with fresh mint.

Now sit back, preferably in a swing, and enjoy.

Come on over for a glass of sweet tea. I may even offer you a slice of strawberry pie.


Piper Robert said...

Sweet tea, wow, now that does bring back memories. You couldn't visit anyone during the summer, in Clarksburg or especially Sardis, without having a glass of sweet ice tea. Remember, Grandma always had a pitcher of ice tea in her fridge. When you said ice tea, I only thought one kind existed. Sweet, but not too sweet. Hold the lemon, please.

The first time I ventured away from home and had ice tea, I thought it strange the tea was unsweetened. Yuck.

Some people call it "iced" tea, but Grandma called it "ice" tea.

On a hot, humid, West Virginia summer day, I loved to chug the first glass. Then pour another to savor it very slowly. James drank straight from the pitcher. Or did you know that?

Oh yeah, Mom's spaghetti and Bonnie is doing pretty darn good carrying the torch of country cooking. Frances Allen is doing her part also. Both are excellent.

We had roastin' ears cooked on a fire this weekend. You remember? Build a fire, put the corn in, husk and all. When the husk turns grey, peel it back and drown in butter. Salt/pepper to taste. Wash it down with ice tea.

Bonnie eats her corn going around the cob. I eat mine like a typewriter.

Susan C said...

We had "roastin' ears" for our Memorial Day barbecue. It was too cool for an outdoor BBQ, so I cooked the sweet corn in a kettle and the carne asada in my cast iron grill skillet. You're right, Piper. There's nothing like corn cooked on a fire.

I had a margarita instead of sweet tea.

SUEB0B said...

On our buses, the ad for the sandwich in the Spanish language version is "Pollo Jugoso," which at first I thought meant "Playful Chicken." I had to look it up to realize that it means "Juicy Chicken."

Emily said...

Even after my eight years living in the South, I still can't take the "sweet" tea. I always have to order half sweet/half unsweet. At Chick-Fil-A it's called a "split tea." :)

Emily said...

Ps. Just a thought: In West Virginia if you order sweet tea it's "sweetened or unsweetened" or "sweet ice tea." In the South, it's just "sweet tay."

Susan C said...

SueBob, That's funny how McDonald's is marketing their "Southern" chicken in the Latino community. They seem to be rolling out the sweet tea in communities with a large African-American population.

Emily, I'm glad I have you to teach me the subtleties of Southern sweet tea. I will definitely have to remember to order half sweet, half non-sweet tea, just like I order a half calf, half de-caf latte at Starbuck's!