There’s nothing in this world better than a real, Southern, Sunday Dinner. Every Sunday family and friends would gather at mama’s house after church for dinner. It was always a table full! No matter what entree’ or sides she served, she would ALWAYS have a plate of fresh cut tomatoes and cucumbers with a little salt and pepper, and a jar of her home canned Bread & Butter, Squash or Sweet Cucumber pickles. Sometimes she would add some fresh sliced bell pepper and okra. There was always a gallon or two of sweet iced tea. It just didn’t get any better. Well…except for her tea. Sigh.
There are many, many…MANY… things that can be said about my daddy. He was a tough military man, and he had his moments, but he loved my mama dearly. He believed in family, tradition and Sunday dinners. He believed you should never use profanity around a lady and there was always a time and place for everything, and the Sunday dinner table wasn’t the time or place for much other than filling your belly.
One Sunday we were all gathered around the dinner table as usual, when mama brought in her tea. Um. Yeah. So, all sweet ice tea is NOT created equal and although mama was a fantastic cook, her tea was, well…HORRID! Somehow the correct amount of tea vs. sugar and water was lost somewhere in translation which resulted in a seriously STRONG, bitter substance that would surely put hair on your chest. And anywhere else it touched for that matter.
For years we had been quiet and never said a word figuring when everyone went for water, she’d get a subtle, non-hurtful message. Until that one, particular Sunday. Mama brought in the tea, with no water pitcher! It was apparent, we were avoiding it like the plague and desperately waiting for the water to magically appear. My sister suggested she would get the water, when mama asked, “Is something wrong with the tea?” She had never asked before and we were completely at a loss for what to say or do. We all looked at daddy and after a hesitant pause, he said, “No, not at all. Fill the glasses Missy. We will all have tea today.” It was like pouring dark, bitter, sludge, but we drank it. Every one of us choked it down. Because daddy said so. And because we loved mama. And it was the most terrible thing we ever drank.
It was ironic. Looking back on the Sunday I am positive mama did that on purpose. She wasn’t oblivious to that fact that week after week, no one drank the tea. It was her way of trying to tell us if something needed to be said, we should say it, or there would be swift consequences. She was a sly fox that one. The next Sunday, her tea miraculously was AMAZING. Come to find out she had asked my Aunt Frieda how she made her sweet tea (it was the best ever), and realized she was using a BOX of tea bags to a gallon of tea. My God in heaven no wonder it was like drinking tar!
I’ll always remember that Sunday though not for mama’s terrible tea, but for how my daddy loved my mama. No holds barred. He would protect her at any cost, even if meant drinking some God awful stuff. Not many had the opportunity to ever see the softer side of him, and in that way, I’ll be forever thankful for the lessons I learned from mama’s terrible sweet tea.
…and her pretty spectacular Mustard BBQ Sauce on Smoked Brisket. Mmmm.
Smoked Brisket with Mama’s Mustard BBQ Sauce
- 1 Brisket or beef roast
- Salt & pepper to taste
- 1 cup yellow mustard
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 cup sugar
Generously salt & pepper meat. Bake or smoke brisket, fat side up, according to package directions based on size/weight. Whisk remaining ingredients in a bowl. If you want the sauce sweeter, add more sugar. If you prefer tangier, add more vinegar.
Brush sauce on meat during the last 10 minutes of cooking time and finish cooking uncovered. Make sure to let the meat sit for at least 15 minutes before carving to allow juice to redistribute. Serve with carrots or other roasted vegetables. I used carrots and pearl onions. It’s oh so simple, but oh soooo delicious!
If you have leftover brisket or roast, you can use the leftovers to make a fantastic Northern Bean Soup. Just cut up the remaining meat in small chunks, add 2 cups Northern beans, 2 cans of diced tomatoes, and 2 cups chicken stock. You can also add 1 package of frozen corn if desired. Serve with cornbread and this makes a fantastic weeknight dinner!
Life is too short to eat ugly food y’all!