A few weeks ago, back before the Giants’ ignominious collapse, I won a football bet. The Iowa Hawkeyes were playing the South Carolina Gamecocks in something called the “Outback Bowl.” I grew up in Iowa, and claim to be an Iowan when it suits my purposes, so even though I knew nothing about the match-up, or either team, I challenged my pal in Columbia, South Carolina, to bet on the game.
I wanted to bet typical regional food, which was easy for my friend because South Carolina has lots of delicious things to eat, but it was hard for me because, first, I’m not in Iowa, I’m in New York, and second, because Iowa food is pretty terrible. Or it was when I was growing up there. Maybe by now they’ve figured out some way to get ahold of fresh vegetables, or fish, or something. Or maybe not everyone cooks like my Grammy C., with her giant vats of boiled beef, boiled boiled boiled until it was a grey, stringy mass in a thin and tasteless broth. Don’t forget the gummy noodles! It does seem odd that Iowa has no indigenous barbecue, since it is God’s little pigpen on earth, the pork producing capital of our fine land, producing more than 25% of all American pork. And then what do we do with it? I dunno. Boil it, I guess.
But in other states, they barbecue it. They smoke it, baste it, sweet, hot, or vinegary—barbecue is one of my favorite things. And by virtue of winning my bet (Iowa 31--South Carolina 10), I was privileged to eat THE BEST BARBECUE I HAVE EVER TASTED. I have eaten vinegar-based so-called “Carolina” barbecue up here in New York a few times, and it is pretty good (and probably what I had wasn’t even the real deal), but apparently that is North Carolina style. South Carolina barbecue is based on a mustard sauce, and now I can tell you that it is scrumptious, BBQalicious, and superb.
My South Carolina friend sent me three pounds of Maurice’s Gourmet Barbecue and a bottle of Maurice’s Southern Gold BBQ Sauce Original Flavor, the one that says “HONOR ALL HERITAGE” on the label, next to the picture of the Confederate flag. Since Maurice’s last name is Bessinger, I don’t know why he doesn’t want to honor his German heritage by putting a swastika on there, too. Plus there is a picture of the flag of the Sovereign State of South Carolina, which looks like the flag of some Caribbean banana republic. And Maurice will be happy to sell you his autobiography, which I suppose will explain his heritage-based beliefs. But I just wanna eat the food.
In spite of his shout-out to “heritage,” Maurice is all modern and up-to-date, since the instructions on the barbecue said it had to be heated in a microwave. Maurice is a lot more modern than me, actually, since I don’t own a microwave and never have. In the spirit of football wagerism, I took the barbecue over to Green Bay Packers’ Hall-of-Famer C. Kiel’s house because she has not only a microwave but also a husband who bakes killer pecan pie, and we ate while watching the Baltimore/Tennessee playoff game on Saturday. It was kind of like afternoon tea, but with pork. It was sublime.
I have been trying and trying to think of the words to describe the flavors of the tender, smoky meat and the tangy-mustard-sweet sauce, and have concluded that it is beyond my power to describe. I can only advise you to get your own and try some.
And what the heck is “colonial hash?” That’s what I want to know.