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

Things I can do without!

The Infamous East Tennessee Snail Darter

The Infamous East Tennessee Snail Darter

I just returned home from a regional transportation committee meeting which is about as much fun as watching a PBS documentary on the mating habits of the east Tennessee snail darter.  However, given the choice between the two, Rocky Top could be home sweet home to me.  I admit to being in a somewhat agitated mood as the notions of increased taxes, vehicular fees, and roundabouts do have a tendency to set me off at times.

I’m not real crazy about the roundabouts to begin with and Davidson (NC) has two of them.  My 350Z always gets a little loose going around turn three and I want to automatically pull into that gas station there at exit thirty and get a wedge adjustment before I get to that next roundabout.

To compound my anxiety, I get home and heat up a plate of left over spaghetti and make a salad to find that the salad dressing in the pantry is Thousand Island Low Fat.  Now given I am really the only one who does the grocery shopping around here, I have to assume I purchased said salad dressing.  I can’t blame the shopping on either of my two dearly departed ex-wives.  And, no, for those who don’t know my social history, the wives aren’t deceased they just departed. I know I have poor eye sight these days and I’m quite confident I wouldn’t purchase it on purpose.  I absolutely abhor low fat stuff.  I’ve a notion the Good Lord didn’t intend us to have low fat items or else he, or (she …who really knows) would not have made fattening items taste so good.

I did eat my spaghetti and picked at my salad.  Finally, determining I didn’t really need the salad – much too healthy in the first place.  Now I’m sitting here at my computer frustrated that I wasted however much I paid for the damn Thousand Island when I really don’t intend to eat another spoonful.  Come to think of it –there’s a great many things I really don’t care for.  I wouldn’t go so far as to say not like.  That’s pretty strong language and Lord knows I don’t want to offend said Salad Dressing or the people who purchase the stuff.  But here’s a list of things I could simply do without:

Fat free anything, particularly the offending salad dressing, cookies, ice cream, popsicles, and pudding.  I mean get real – deserts are supposed to have sugar.  It’s like the food law or something.  I also abhor this salt that has no salt taste.  Who thought up salt without the taste?  My mother is cooking with that stuff now.  She raised me on fried foods and gravy.  Today it’s no sugar, salt, fried foods, or caffeine.   Decaffeinated coffee?  Just who drinks brown water?  Makes no sense to me.  While we’re still on the foods: Ketchup based barbecue.  If you cannot fix it eastern or mustard style, just don’t

a Rutabaga

a Rutabaga

bother.  Rutabagas!  I’m not real sure what they are but I know ‘em when I smell ‘em. My mama used to cook those too back when she used salt and sugar.  Hated the things.  I always knew when my dad was out of town because the house smelled of rutabagas.

Enough on the food – ready for this – Democrats west of the Mississippi.  Surprise!  Okay, you got me.  I need to throw in north of the Mason Dixon line too.  There’s a few down south that I can tolerate.  I particularly don’t have much use for the ones from Nevada and California.  I think I’d rather be water boarded or go duck hunting with former Vice President Cheney than spend ten minutes listening to their drivel.

Northern tourists who wear knee high black socks with their sandals at Myrtle Beach.  Holy cow!  Who gave them their fashion sense?  My great great great grandfather William Beauregard Russell spent four years of his life during the war of Northern Aggression trying to protect the beaches of South Carolina from the oppressing Yankee hordes who attempted to walk down Ocean Drive wearing the aforementioned knee high black socks with the sandals.  My great great great granddaddy had two horses and three Red Cross nurses shot out from under him during that late unpleasantness trying to protect the sanctity of our beaches.

Reality shows – Somebody explain to me why anybody would want to spend an hour watching “some other dude sitting on their couch watching TV” in a reality show.  America needs to get a life.  And this Tweeter thing is just as bad.  Listen – I don’t care what you were doing five minutes ago and I really don’t care what you’re doing now.  Just let me know when you’ve changed the face of the world and done something someone else said couldn’t be done to make things better.  Then tell me about it.

Sunrise at South Beach

Sunrise at South Beach

Fortune tellers. Don’t have much use for them either. I remember wandering into a fortune teller’s front parlor down at South Beach in Miami about five years ago.  Her business was between Finnegan’s Pub and the Royal Palm Hotel.  I asked one simple question: what’s the point spread gonna be in the Duke game tonight when they were in the NCAA tournament a few years back.  She wanted me to pay her fifty bucks and read my palm.  I can assure you, the score wasn’t on my palm and fifty bucks was far more than I was gonna win on the bet to begin with.  Really have no use for fortune tellers.

I guess I need to quit whining.  Maybe it all makes sense to someone else.  Me, I’m gonna grab a little Debbie Oatmeal Cookie and a tall glass of whole milk and go to bed. I need the rest.  There’s another transportation meeting tomorrow.

May 14, 2009 Posted by | Personal | , , , | Leave a comment