Good morning, ya'll. Come on up to the porch and let's have some iced tea. If you wonder why I invite ya'll up to the porch, I thought I would explain how important "the porch" is in the Southern culture.
The front porch was and is the gathering place for the family, friends and foes. It's the place where you catch up on all the news of the family no matter how distant. You know family in the South includes cousins down to fifth or sixth twice removed. We didn't have a porch on our house in Alabama but our grandparents in Mississippi had front and back porches. On these were most always a swing and several rockers where you would gather together and swing, rock and talk. Because it was always many months since we had visited our grandparents, we would have lots of swinging, rocking and talking to do so we could catch up on all the news.
The aunts, uncles, great aunts and uncles, cousins, inlaws and outlaws, would usually show up several times while we were there and join us on the porch. There would be great hugging and kissing and sweet talk like, "My how you have grown", "You haven't changed a bit", "How do you stay so young looking" and even though you knew they were just flattering you, it was music to your ears for it was said with love. Friends would drop by and it would begin all over again. The rockers and swing would be full, the younger ones would sit on the steps and the yard would be full of children. Then you would start bringing out the chairs from the kitchen to accomodate the crowd. Each one was welome and when a car would pass by, you stopped talking, looked to see who it was and waved. There are no strangers in the South, just future friends.
Our Granddaddy Sam used his front porch as a game room. Every day after lunch he would go to the porch, sit in his big rocker with the cowhide seat he made, pull over a small table and get the checker set out. Uncle Estus, daddy or one of us would join him for a game of checkers. Most of the time Granddaddy won for he was a master checker player but if one of the grandchildren was playing, he would get a grin on his face and LET us win. He would just break out in this huge laugh and tell us how good we were to beat him. I kinda think he enjoyed it as much as we did.
I remember the swing at Grandmother Mae's house squeaked with every swing. When I asked Granddaddy Burt why it squeaked he said it was to let him know if anyone was on the porch in the swing and he could go and see who was there. It was kinda like an alarm signal for him. He enjoyed swinging in it and would swing and read his Zane Grey books for hours. The 3 of us children would see just how high that swing would go and scare our parents to death which was terribly amusing to us.
We didn't have a porch and most houses these days don't have one but that's not important. It's not the physical presence of a porch but the concept. Here in the South a porch can be a shady spot in the yard, a patio in the back, or a group on the Internet. It's the place where you gather to watch the world go by, talk and drink iced tea.
Our front porch as we were growing up was a pear tree out by the house. Daddy had put up a swing on a frame and we had several folding chairs to sit in. It was a cool spot where there was usually a breeze and it was our "front porch" where we could sit and talk, shell peas and butterbeans, peel peaches and pears, watch the children playing, read the Sunday funny paper and most importantly watch the traffic go by. Our friends would toot their horns and wave and we would wave back and then comment, "I wonder where they are going?" This would bring on the discussion of where would they be going and why. It's not that we were nosy, just concerned. If you believe that, I have some beachfront property on the Alabama River I will give you. We were and are nosy about our family, friends and foes. It's a Southern thing.
The message to all who passed by was if we are sitting on the porch, you are invited to stop by and sit a spell. Being an informal situation, you don't have to call just come on in. It is amazing how many people would see us sitting the yard, slow down, back up and come sit and talk with us. Mama would get up and go get some more iced tea or on special occasions, lemonade. Our Sunday afternoon treats were Coke poured over vanilla ice cream. Coke floats were a Sunday afternoon, special treat and were to be savored for a long time.
Many of us don't have front porches but we have patios or decks. These can be a "front porch" anytime you get together with friends, socialize, drink iced tea, eat some good food, sit back, relax and have great conversation. Because many of us live without family nearby, our friends become our family and it's just like sitting on the porch and sharing your thoughts, your dreams and love for each other.
We live in a hurry up and get there society and the "front porch" idea is slowly fading away. Our days are so scheduled we just hurry from one scheduled event to another. Our day planners and calendars rule our lives and we don't have any time leftover to enjoy each other and just sit, rock, swing and commune with each other. What a shame.
In this day of the Internet, I now have a "Net Porch" which stretches from Adel, GA around the world. Our friends and family meet up, catch up on the news and talk about everything. The one thing we can't share physically is the sweet iced tea but we can sure enjoy it wherever we are. It's not the location but the sharing.
Now to share my iced tea recipe so you can make some too.
3 Family size tea bags (If using small tea bags, I use 10 for 2 quarts of iced tea)
2 Cups of cold water
1 Cup of sugar
Place the two cups water in a pot and add the tea bags. Bring to a boil, do not continue boiling. Remove from heat and let steep. Pour warm tea into empty pitcher. Add the sugar and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Fill remaining pitcher with cold water.
You can do this in the microwave oven but I think bringing it to a boil on the stove makes better tea. The secret is not letting it continue to boil or letting it steep too long.
If you forget and let it steep too long, put a pinch of baking soda in it to cut the bitterness. Be sure and add the sugar to the warm tea so that it will dissolve throughout the tea. Adding sugar to cold tea is a pain to avoid. You can use Splenda if you are diabetic and I have used half saccharine tablets and half sugar. The sugar is the best!
I like lemon in mine and sometimes I add a sprig of fresh mint.
Sitting on "front porches", wherever they may be is to be cherished and nurtured. Gather up with your family and friends and have a "front porch" experience whether it be under a shade tree, patio, deck or small apartment porch, just do it and pass this tradition on to your children. It's important!
The Georgia Peach