Far from Home, Sweet Home

Victoria Cubera

I miss the sun. In Georgia, where I’m from, September skies are not constantly under cloud cover. Working on a tan would not have to include a trip to the salon. Temperatures should still be in the upper seventies, not dipping below fifty every night. With the climate as a stimulus, I find myself missing home in the South more than I thought I would.

I’m not from Atlanta so the transition into rural, farm-filled countryside is not a shock. Hamilton actually bears a strong resemblance to my hometown: a quaint little college town nestled in the Appalachian Mountains. Certainly, there are cultural and regional dissimilarities between northeast Georgia and central New York. For example, my part of Georgia has a much more visible level of poverty compared to what I’ve seen so far in Madison County. Overall I am adjusting, but there is one major difference I just can’t get used to.

My primary grievance is the lack of sweet tea. Let me clarify this term for those who have never been to the South. Sweet tea is not hot tea with sugar. Iced tea that was brewed without a sweetening agent cannot be transformed into sweet tea by mixing in Splenda at the dinner table. Those powdered mixes that can be bought in supermarkets throughout the nation may claim to be sweet tea, but anyone who’s consumed the genuine beverage knows the difference. Real sweet tea has sugar added well before the tea cools, so that when removed from the refrigerator three hours later, the drink is not only chilled but slightly syrupy.

Sweet tea is a Southern staple that is acceptable at every meal and perfectly complements Southern home-style cooking, especially dishes that involve any type of fried substance. Aside from the traditional supper table setting, sweet tea can be found at wedding receptions, school functions, cotillions and, of course, front porches across the South. Offering a glass of sweet tea serves not only as a conversation starter between unfamiliar groups, but is perhaps one of the most recognizable, if stereotyped, examples of Southern hospitality.

Finding sweet tea above the Mason-Dixon Line

becomes a challenge. Every time I’m in the Northeast, I wonder if somehow the culinary culture will have changed. When I’m out at a restaurant, I always ask if sweet tea is available. I can’t say I’ve had much luck so far, but optimism and withdrawal continue to keep my hope alive.

Ultimately, I think my craving for sweet tea relates back to me missing the South. Sweet tea is not designed to be chugged; it’s intended to be savored while reclining in the sun (although that could be a personal preference). I inherently equate the drink with relaxation, and with a more laid-back lifestyle than what I’m experiencing in New York.

So when you see me in Frank Dining Hall mixing Nestea and lemonade with a distressed expression on my face, it’s not because the drink machines are malfunctioning. Most likely, the active reminder of how far from home I’ve come is hitting me yet again. While I may get used to the cold weather, snow and Yankee accents, being separated from my drink of choice will always be bittersweet.