Russell’s Ramblings

Those who do not hear the music might think the dancer mad

Serve me up a Porky Pig Platter Please!

Judge at this year's BBQ Cookoff

Judge at this year's BBQ Cookoff

Recently I was asked to judge a Barbecue Cook Off for the Ada Jenkins Center in Davidson – an outreach center which assists those in the community that need a helping hand.  It was an honor as I consider myself somewhat of a connoisseur when it comes to that delectable dish.     Barbecue means different things to different people.  To some folks chicken, beef, lamb, and an assortment of other creatures can be barbecued on the grill.  But to a real southerner, Barbecue has one meaning – pulled or chopped pork pit-cooked slowly, typically 16-18 hours, over hickory coals served up Eastern Style with a sauce of vinegar and peppers or mustard based.

No Porky Pig sandwich or plate is complete without fresh hush puppies, Cole slaw, and topped off with Banana Pudding.  When I was a little boy growing up in Rock Hill, my father, grandfather, and a South Carolina House of Representatives member by the name of George Petty used to attend most of the South Carolina football and basketball games. Win or lose, we found our way to Maurice Bessinger’s Piggie Park in Columbia for a Big Joe for the men and a Little Joe for myself and a couple of hush puppies for good measure.

My father, a USC graduate, spent many a day pouring over his studies with a plate of ribs, a side of slaw, and onion rings.  Sometimes he ordered the rice with hash, another great dish!  Rare do I tailgate for today’s Carolina Games without stopping by Bessinger’s.  I admit to an occasional run by Bojangles for Fried Chicken, but nothing says Carolina football more than a round of Big Joe Porky Pig Sandwiches and a gallon of sweet ice tea.  Yes, there are cocktails involved but it is simply not proper etiquette to drink your whiskey before a bowl of “Nanna Pudding” made with real Nilla Vanilla Wafers.  I once had someone try to sneak a Nanna Puddin’ by me made with those low fat off brands like Keebler.  I can tell the difference blindfolded, standing on my head, with a plethora of Gamecock Cheerleaders walking by – “Go Cocks!” 

Go Cocks!

Go Cocks!

When I was a chamber executive in the Low Country of South Carolina, I spent many a Friday lunch at Sweatman’s in Holly Hill.  Their mustard-based barbecue melted in your mouth – yum! In 1992, I was elected President of the United States Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycees) and it was tradition for the National President to host a cookout for the National Officers and headquarters staff.  I flew out gallons of Bessinger’s Barbecue from their Flying Pig service.  It was an experience those folks from Tulsa was sure not to forget.  I have to give credit where credit is due – it was my wife Melissa’s idea and it was a sure fired hit!

Great Grandmamma Rosie Agnes Lee Feemster

Great Grandmamma Rosie Agnes Lee Feemster

My Great Grandmamma Rosie Lee Feemster, whose granddaddy was Robert Byrd Lee, Robert E. Lee’s fifth cousin once removed, once told me the War of Northern Aggression or the Late Unpleasantness as her generation called it was fought because Union General Winfield Scott tried to steal Jeff Davis’s barbecue sauce recipe.  Scott, who was big as a house, didn’t fight in the war because he couldn’t mount his horse. Lincoln, rather than apologize for trying to snitch a southern dish, antagonized the Citdael boys until fed up with the Yankee chicanery, they fired off that damn cannon and started a war.  Who was I to argue with Great Grandmamma Lee!

Bessinger's Piggie Park

Bessinger's Piggie Park

So how can you tell a good Barbecue joint?  Well if they have quiche or a soufflé of some type, get the hell out of dodge.  Any good Barbecue House is going to have the green or red plaid vinyl tablecloths strategically placed on a picnic table or bench.  Shealy’s Bar-B-Que House in Leesville South Carolina even has a washing station (sink) on the wall as you wait in line.  No self respecting southerner would eat his hush puppies with soiled fingers!  If there is a picture of Jesus, Ronald Reagan, and Robert E. Lee – the Holy Trinity – on the wall, chances are it’s good pork.  A dead give away is a plump waitress or rotund cook in the back.  If they’re skinny – leave.  If they don’t eat it – you don’t want it either.

The North might have won the war, but as far as I’m concerned they can keep their beer and brats.  Give me a few ribs, a plate of pulled pork, and a side of hash and I’m a happy camper.  Throw in the hush puppies and bring on the puddin’ or pie.  Whether its peach cobbler or a slice of pecan pie – I’m in heaven, my oh my!

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August 6, 2009 - Posted by | Personal | , , ,

2 Comments »

  1. Bill, you are ABSOLUTELY HYSTERICAL!! I was wondering if you were gonna mention ole Piggy Park…and then there in print was my very own name. Thanks for giving me props! You REALLY need to write a book of some sort. You have a gift!! Love ya!

    Comment by Melissa Russell | August 7, 2009 | Reply

  2. Billy, I really do agree with Melissa. You really do need to write a book. It will be a best seller and I will promote it for you on a website. I can also give you some good pictures and tips to put in your book (about your little personal life), and I am sure it will be published.
    We could all use the extra money from the publication of it. Give it a try!!

    Comment by Sarah Feemster Russell | August 12, 2009 | Reply


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