Okay, I’m going to say it. Americans don’t make proper tea. Maybe it’s a lack of that particular hard and calciferous water or maybe it’s the quality of the tea itself. Or maybe tea is only really good when you’re a bit cold and damp and in need of a certain restorative tonic that is uniquely British. But tea here is different.
Maybe I am going to turn into a tea bore and start buying tea leaves from quaint online tea shops. (Yes, I am a former PG Tips user. I’m sorry, but, you know, life in the metropolis was busy and demanding, though let me hasten to add that I would never use quick grits.) And, keeping it in perspective, British people and people in the Northeast can’t make iced tea.
It is cheating for a restaurant to serve iced tea crystals with their weird lemony, nutrasweety aftertaste. (Did Elizabeth Manus put some Ys in my coffee?) Why do they bother? And don’t even start in the UK with iced coffee. Wozzat? Grudgingly, they would pour steaming hot coffee, Nescafé even, over ice, into a waxed paper cupped. But all this in pre-frappucino days.
So, back in Sweet Home Alabama, where the waitresses always approach with two pitchers (sweet and unsweet), from our family road trip up East, I tried to right these wrongs by making sun tea, which, for my Yankee and international readers, is a good way to make iced tea: it cools faster and you don’t have to stand around boiling water. My cultural variation was that it was Jamaican mint tea.
That was nice.
This is what is not nice: mice. And in a house with two cats who should be working a bit harder in my opinion one should not have mice. Now the Wertis was never much of a mouser; he had people, as he would say, well other cats really, but indulge him. We always did.
Molly, an aged but spry tabby, enjoyed taking out chipmunks this spring. She and my husband choreographed an elaborate dodge and fake-you-out dance where she would circle the house in attempt to enter with her catch. Where are you going with that? Not in my house. She laid them down on the deck by the door, like a compromise. But after the chipmunks settled down she discovered that we have some mice in the kitchen.
She caught one a few months ago and left him on the landing outside our bedroom door. Happily we did not step on it. AAchh, get me a bag, good kitty.
The next one was deposited a few weeks later, in plain sight, near the dining table. Like the chipmunks, they had been neatly dispatched and looked as if they were only sleeping.
“We should give it to C. for his snake,” my younger daughter cried. The neighbors had recently caught two snakes in the woods and brought them home as pets. The snakes live in their garage. The more sensible of the two is uncaged. The mouse went into a ziploc bag and into the deep freeze for a day until my daughter remembered to take him to C’s. And it was a good thing she remembered. Who hasn’t had the experience of defrosting something just to see what it is?
We were back from our travels and the cats were busy processing the conflicting gamut of emotions ranging from fear of abandonment to relief that we had taken the dog with us (or maybe hoping we had come to our senses). While one cat, not normally vocal, went around making mournful howling sounds, the other sought to reestablish her place in the family and declare her love by bringing a dead thing to our bed. When our first child was born, she found a large beetle and delicately placed its intact form on my husband’s pillow.
The last mouse eluded the neighbor’s snake. My husband’s reaction was too visceral to preserve this bloody little corpse, tucked beneath his sleeping, bare torso in the small hours last night. Blaagh, there’s blood on the sheets, etc, etc. A little gift to welcome us home. A pitcher of tea or a nice cuppa would have been preferable.