I’ve been dreaming about outdoor patio lunches, about fancy white tablecloths and club sandwiches that come wrapped in paper napkins, about standing outside a taco truck shoveling carnitas drenched in hot green salsa and crisp white onions and fresh lime juice into my face at 2AM.
I’ve been fantasizing about giant fuck-off Cobb salads served with a haystack of herby, cheesy skinny fries for the table, and barbecue stands handing out waxed-paper cartons filled with towering piles of smoky, sticky brisket. And a pickle on the side.
I’ve been thinking about sitting on the hood of the car outside the Dairy Queen at dusk, eating a chocolate dipped cone and talking about nothing and watching the thunderclouds roll in. I’ve been meditating on hot dogs.
I’m deep in Summer Outdoor Food Nostalgia, is what it is. We’ll be diving deep into this fantasy-based cooking in the coming weeks. Get ready for cherry pie, and pulled pork, and breakfast burritos and maybe donuts? And limeade and chicken shawarma and really good cold sandwiches for when it’s too hot to even think about turning on a burner on the stove, much less the oven.
A summertime eatin’-stuff moodboard: drive-thrus, puddin pie, Ferris Bueller, Brad Pitt eating in every scene of Ocean’s 11, fresh cherries, Corny the Sweetcorn at the Urbana Sweetcorn Festival, who is a known associate of this blog.
But you’re not getting through any of the above without a drink. Good, cold drinks are the cornerstone of summer eating: horchata, iced coffee, lemonade, milkshakes. The ever-wonderful movie theater Coke, which is essentially syrup poured over a mountain of crushed ice. Ideal.
Sweet Tea is movie theater Coke’s mellower cousin – you can control the sweetness at the beginning, with how much honey you put in, and at the end, with how much ice you serve it with.
I always thought iced tea was a bitter, grown-up drink. An I’m-being-good substitute for soda. Sweet Tea isn’t a substitute for anything, and, thanks to my brother-in-law’s Secret Trick she isn’t bitter, either. She’s her own magnificent self, and I just wish I’d met her sooner.
- Unlike normal tea, the water should be as hot as you can get it from the tap, but not boiling. We’re not adding milk, and boiling water’s going to make it bitter.
- Amounts are from memory, from what I remember of how my brother-in-law Dave makes it. Thanks Dave you’re the best Dave!
- This steeps for a long time, so it’ll have a caffeinated kick if you’re sensitive to that kind of thing.
- Works great as a mixer for summer cocktails, or mixed with lemonade for an Arnold Palmer. Truly, the non-alcoholic American Pimm’s Cup.
Dave’s Sweet Tea
6-8 bags of strong black tea
3 or 4 whole lemons
At least 1 cup honey, or more to taste
Some mint sprigs, if you want. Or peach juice, or whatever. Go nuts.
- Put 6-8 bags of strong black tea into the biggest mixing bowl you have, or, if you’re on top of things, a large jug. If they have tags, just cut them off and dunk the whole bag and string apparatus in there. You’re going for about a cup of water per bag.
- Fill with hot water from the tap – as hot as you can get, but not boiling.
- While it’s hot, add the honey and stir carefully to dissolve. It’s easier to add honey in bulk when the water’s hot, so that it melts into the tea. You can add more to taste when the tea’s steeped.
- Leave to cool at room temperature until it can go in the fridge, then leave in the fridge for at least 6 hours, or overnight.
- The next day, or when the tea’s steeped, take the bags out. Don’t squeeze them into the tea, it’ll just make it bitter.
- Juice a lemon and add the juice, strained, to the tea. Stir and taste. How is it? Too strong? Not sweet enough? Not lemony? Add more lemon juice, or more honey, or more water. Also, if you want to add any flavorings, do that now.
- I treat this as a kind of cordial, or drink-base, so I usually make it sweeter and stronger than I’d want to drink straight. Envision it poured over a glass full of ice, and sweeten accordingly.
- It’ll keep well in a jug in the fridge for a week or so, but mine’s never lasted that long.