MAY 24, 2010 – South Carolina seems to have an official everything – other than a state meat. It’s time for barbecue to be the state’s official meat.
“What a wonderful idea,” Columbia barbecue aficionado Lake E. High Jr. told us a couple of years back. “This is the state where barbecue was invented and this is the only state in the nation that has four different kinds.
“We are the unrecognized barbecue capital of the world,” said High, a retired stockbroker who heads the SC Barbeque Association. “They [state legislators] need to make us the recognized barbecue capital of the world.”
Adopting a state meat makes a lot of sense. Thanks to the state legislature, we’ve already got an official tree (Sabal Palmetto), bird (Carolina wren), fish (striped bass), flower (yellow Jessamine) and animal (white-tailed deer). We’ve even got an official state beverage (milk), hospitality beverage (tea, although most people might think of something a little stronger), fruit (peach), dance (the Shag) and wild game bird (wild turkey).
If we have enough gumption to have an official snack food (boiled peanuts), we ought to be able to have succulent, tender South Carolina barbecue as our state meat.
High says South Carolina is unique in the barbecue world because it is the only state to have four kinds of sauces. First there’s the standard basting marinade – a vinegar and pepper mixture that also is used as a finishing sauce. It’s been around for generations.
Then there’s a mustard-based finishing sauce frequently spotted from the Lowcountry to the Midlands. It was created here in the mid-1700s by mustard-liking German immigrants who added the seasoning to the vinegar sauce. (These immigrants apparently came from pro-mustard areas of Germany, compared to Pennsylvania Germans who didn’t have such a tradition of dumping mustard on everything, High noted.)
The third concoction is a light-tomato sauce with vinegar and a little sugar. It’s found in South Carolina’s Pee Dee and the Piedmont area of North Carolina. It started picking up in popularity around 1900.
Finally, there’s the thick tomato sauce that came on the scene after World War II. It’s the kind of sauce you often see in a lot of bottles at the grocery store. It uses only a little vinegar and pepper. Barbecue restaurants in the Upstate often feature this sauce, High said.
Sources tell us lawmakers may be intrigued with the idea of making barbecue become the state’s official meat.
Gervais S. Bridges, a blogger who used to runs the tongue-in-cheek Barbecue and Politics Web site, said in a special interview that he was surprised barbecue wasn’t already the state’s official meat.
“On the other hand, barbecue isn’t kosher,” mused Bridges, a pseudonym for Columbia resident Ross Shealy. “But I guess if we’re going to discriminate against Vegans by having a state meat, we can discriminate a little further and make it a non-kosher meat.”
Shealy, err, Bridges says barbecue and politics are two of the messiest things in South Carolina.
“I suspect the two have always gone hand-in-hand, and Maurice Bessinger consummated the union when he ran for governor in the 1970′s. I wasn’t born yet, so don’t take that to the bank.”
Bridges agrees South Carolina has the world’s best barbecue.
“What really sets South Carolina barbecue apart is that it’s made by and for the greatest folks in the world … South Carolinians. It’s a scientific fact that love, when distilled down to a tasteable substance, has the flavor of hickory-smoked barbecue.”
So why should state lawmakers argue with science?
Regardless of what kind of barbecue you like, real change can come to the Statehouse by lobbying legislators to make barbecue our official meat.
Yes, you can, state lawmakers. Get to work.
Andy Brack, publisher of Statehouse Report and CharlestonCurrents.com, believes the world’s barbecue epicenter hovers somewhere around Kingstree, SC. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.