Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Mississippi Delta Sweet Tea Tour

Today I am focusing on my southern roots and sharing a few sights and sips from what I'm calling my Mississippi Delta Sweet Tea Tour. My husband had been wanting to visit Oxford, Miss. and Memphis, Tenn., so once I got the latest pesky magazine deadline out of the way, off we went! Our first meal on the road was a stop in Tuscaloosa, Ala. at the legendary Dreamland Bar-B-Que for ribs.

Now I should tell y'all that barbecue is wasted on me. Oh, I like it just fine, but I've never been what you might call a barbecue connoisseur, although I can say that the sauce was nice and vinegary with a little kick to it, which I rather liked.

My beverage of choice on the entire trip was, of course, sweet tea! One of many-many-many things I enjoy about living in the South is that when you go to a restaurant, you don't have to ask if they serve sweet tea. Of course they do! Now I know we tea blog-reading types are all sophisticated tea drinkers who prefer our beverage fancy and hot and served in a nice china teacup or perhaps a nice gaiwan. But I have a good bit of redneck country girl still flowing through these veins, and I *do not* turn down a good glass of iced sweet tea, ever. I know, I know, I've heard you dear northern and west coast friends say, "That stuff is so thick and sweet you could serve it for pancake syrup." To which I always think, "What a bunch of sissies!" "Well bless your heart, you just haven't built up a tolerance for it yet!" But I will admit it takes a lifetime in the South to fully develop a palate for the nuances of sweet tea. Big Daddy's Iced Tea at Dreamland, for instance, I grade a fine A+. It was sweet but not too sweet, and you didn't take a swig and choke on sugar granules.

It was, as this neon sign attests, the absolutely perfect beverage to enjoy with ribs, and I highly recommend a glass if you are ever by Dreamland.

Next stop: Taylor Grocery in Taylor, Miss. Not my usual tea room, eh?

Here's Alex and myself against the backdrop of the store's famed graffiti wall. It's fun to see all those signatures!

My lunchtime fare was a meat-and-two plate of meatloaf, lima beans and fried okra. (You were just waiting for me to get to the word "fried," weren't you!) Happily, the okra was lightly battered and fried, and neither the limas nor the meatloaf were swimming in grease, which made this a perfect lunch plate for me. Excellent, excellent stuff.

As was the peach cobbler Alex and I split for dessert. (I didn't think to take a photo until after I'd taken a hunk out of the side.)

And the Taylor Grocery Sweet Tea? Another A+, not-too-sweet beverage. A delight, as was Taylor Grocery itself. (You may have read about it in last week's Wall Street Journal. No lie. I ain't whistlin' Dixie here, friends.)

Before we left, I snuck a peek through the windows of the gallery next door to the restaurant, which was closed Monday when we visited. But isn't this a cool tea set!

That afternoon we shopped in downtown Oxford, Miss. At city hall, I took a photo of this sculpture of William Faulkner, Oxford's native son who was a writer and Nobel Prize laureate. Ironically, Alex and I had just met the sculptor himself at Taylor Grocery earlier that day. For the evening's dinner, in downtown Oxford, we chose Ajax Diner. It was dark by the time we left and dark inside, so I didn't get photos, but I am here to tell you that black-eyed peas, smoked catfish and toasted pecans make wonderful salad toppings! (Yes, we were both craving leafy greens by this point.) I was also in a hurry to get back to the hotel room to watch the presidential debate. If I'd known it would be so dull, I'd have lingered at the Ajax Diner! The sweet tea was, I must admit, a little too sugary, so it gets a B+ on my Sweet-Tea-O-Meter.

Into the blues? Before we headed to Memphis, my husband wanted to visit Clarksdale, Miss. where legendary blues guitarist Robert Johnson is said to have sold his soul to the devil in order to be able to play the blues so well. Some say he might have sold his soul in the shadow of Abe's Barbecue, where we both ordered the classic Delta dish of tamales.

Did you know tamales were associated with the Delta, and not just Mexican cooking? I did not. The things you learn while traveling! (They were quite delicious, by the way, served with soda crackers and some especially fresh-tasting cole slaw.)

The tea here was an A-. Not quite as perfectly sugared up as my faves, but not as sugary as some that overdo it. All in all, I was quite pleased with my eats and drinks on this trip. And you know I bought a souvenir, right?

At a cute gift shop in Clarksdale I found this tea shirt, and it was half-priced (just $10). Perfect for a southern girl to wear next summer, wouldn't you say? (An aside about the Mississippi shopping: Across from a folk art gallery featuring a giant cross made of found art including Budweiser caps—which I liked, by the way—I saw a high-end gift shop with a new name in china to me: Philippe Deshoulieres Limoges. Mercy, was this stuff gorgeous!) And hey, friends, with all southern joking aside, thanks for coming along on my little road trip today. If you're ever in the neighborhood, let me know and I'll be glad to offer my services as a travel planner for your own Mississippi Delta Sweet Tea Tour!


  1. Sounds like you had a fun time. Being a true northerner, I don't think I could build up a tolerance for sweet tea. (Being a sicilian-american, neither my grandparents nor my parents drank tea of any kind). But I do love a sounther BBQ, fried okra-mmmm. Did not know that about the tamales - thanks for sharing. I love the old, er vintage buildings you see down south. And you tee shirt is just perfect for southern gal. I love this blog.

  2. Sounds like you had a fun time. Being a true northerner, I don't think I could build up a tolerance for sweet tea. (Being a sicilian-american, neither my grandparents nor my parents drank tea of any kind). But I do love a sounther BBQ, fried okra-mmmm. Did not know that about the tamales - thanks for sharing. I love the old, er vintage buildings you see down south. And you tee shirt is just perfect for southern gal. I love this blog.

  3. What a fun trip - with good food and drink along the way. And you know I'm a Georgia gal, and I do enjoy my sweet tea, aka the table wine of the South! (Even though I'm sweetening mine with Splenda these days, which would not be my first choice.) :-) Anyway, I love the shirt, that's a great find!

  4. This was a fun trip! Loved all your comments about the sweet tea, particularly the reference to your northern and west coast friends! I've made sweet tea, and thought it was very good and very sweet, until I watched a southern friend of mine add sugar to it! Then I realized I apparently made 'northern' sweet tea ~ not nearly sweet enough!

  5. Hello Angela

    I love tea too - the art of tea parties with friends, books about tea and I've even got a jigsaw called "All About Tea".
    You have created a wonderful blog, it's like picking up a favourite book!
    I've read through some of your older posts too and after reading about your Clipper rose I'm going to try and order one!
    On your other blog you mentioned a book called 'Tea at the Blue Lantern Inn' and 'The World of Department Stores' which I'm going to order as well!!! I had tea at Le Bon Marché in July - it is lovely.

    I'm your newest follower and I'm sure you're my first Southern blogging friend! I hope you will come and visit me too!
    Shane ♥ far, far away in New Zealand, but only a click of your mouse and you can visit me too!

  6. OH MY GOODNESS, now you have done it! That food looks to die for and delicious! Really barbecue, tamales, and cole slaw too! But I am sorry I loved your descriptions of the sweet tea, but please no sweet tea here. I will have to remember the next time I am in the south to say make my tea plain. Thank you!

  7. Oh Angela, how fun to be an armchair traveler with you on "The Mississippi Delta Sweet Tea Tour!" Looks like you had a great time drinking all that sweet tea.
    Like your tea shirt too!

  8. Hi Angela,

    Everything looks so delicious! Glad you had a wonderful time.

  9. It looks like you had a fun time. I've heard about the sweet tea from the south and I really want to try it. I've been a tea drinker all my and cold! I enjoyed my visit here.

  10. Now I'm hungry. :-) Sounds like a fun time. I heard about tamales somewhere, either a magazine or tv show.

  11. Hello Angelea
    What a fun tour! I grew up with sweet tea and order it often when out as I don't drink soda pop.
    That's a nice photo of you and your DH.

  12. Hi Angela, love your post today! The barbeque looks so good, as does the sweet tea. Thanks for including the link to the limoges china, I saw some gorgeous pieces. So glad you shared your trip photos, looks like you both had a great time. Joanie

  13. I went to college in Oxford in 1975 (from New York State), so really enjoyed your tour! Would LOVE to visit again...but no sweet tea for me. :)


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