I'm happy drinking whiskey, wine, and water, so I haven't had any trouble staying hydrated since arriving in Washington. But my husband, who I've finally accepted will never like the taste of alcohol, has undergone a small beverage crisis.
We've spent the majority of our adult lives in the South, where hot summers and Bible-thumpers have helped make iced tea the region's drink of choice. For decades before enterprising concessionaires at the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis sparked a national iced-tea craze, Southerners were swilling iced tea by the gallon. Even after the advent of Coke, they still do."Tea" in the South is always cold and always sweet. Most every Southerner has a story about the first time he ordered tea up north: The punch line usually involves a burnt mouth and a perplexed waitress. In Texas, a state that's perpetually negotiating its relationship with the South, restaurants don't sweeten their tea, but sugar packets are a common customer request.
My husband griped briefly about the lack of pre-made sweet tea in Texas, but apparently he didn't realize how good he had it there. More than half of the upscale Seattle restaurants at which we've dined since arriving 10 days ago don't serve iced tea at all. We've encountered an array of hot teas, tea-flavored sorbets, and Earl Grey ricotta, but few tall glasses of chilled black tea served over ice.
While I'm somewhat surprised tea isn't a more prominent beverage here--especially
considering how much miso and ginger has surfaced on my plates--I'm heartened to know our nation still has non-alcoholic drink diversity to celebrate. There's no reason for folks in the Deep South and the Pacific Northwest to quench their thirsts in the exact same fashion.
But I haven't yet figured out what eaters here who can't, won't, or don't drink booze do after, say, a lunch of fish and chips. I've twice been struck by powerful post-fish and chip thirst, and am unsure of the regional solution. In Texas, I'd probably head for a Sonic or 7-Eleven. Back in North Carolina, Bojangles' is in the business of refreshing parched gullets. (The chain also sells fried chicken and biscuits, but Popeyes and Biscuitville do a better job in those categories.)
So if I want to do as Washingtonians do, what should I be drinking? What is Seattle's iced tea?