Friday, December 11, 2015

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BBW’s BBQ Beauty Blog Introduction

It’s almost 2 years ago. January 2014. I’m driving up I-26W to wherever… I travel that way frequently, and as we do while driving, I am often thinking about other things. I notice I’m looking at the billboards.. They do catch my eye…I remember and start to sing the 70’s song, “Signs, signs, everywhere are signs, messing up scenery, breaking my mind. Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the si...igns?…”

They get a bad rap, billboards do…I actually find them somewhat interesting, and tell me stuff I wouldn’t know about. Especially that one fateful day that I see in big colorful letters and pictures from SC Tourism, the “SC BBQ Trail Map”…What was that? Trail map? BBQ?

So I get home and I, of course, Google it. And there it is. The BBQ Trail map. An advertisement from our state’s tourism office showing maps of all the regions of South Carolina. With what looks like hundreds of little green pop up balloons crowded all over the main map. It’s talking about traveling the state and visiting BBQ joints.…Well, butter my butt and call me a biscuit, I love that idea! Who knew? Upon inspecting the main map closer up, they list 168 BBQ places! From the corporate chains, to the small family restaurant that’s only open on the weekend, spread out and separated by region and listed by number, making the task at hand much easier to read.

Now, I started liking BBQ when in my 20’s and while in the Army. My boyfriend took me to a place, which last time I checked, is still in business, Kings BBQ in Petersburg, VA.

Now, growing up, I’d had pork roast, but nothing like this... Remember, this is before The Great Food Explosion… The Food Network, and Google and “Foodies” and food magazines, etc. When you said BBQ in the northeast, they meant firing up the grill and cooking up hamburger, hotdog, chicken, or maybe, on a good day, a chuck steak.

Well, Billy (yes his real name... a true southerner) orders for me...While we wait I’m taking in and loving the atmosphere. The waitresses were mostly older, had on crisp, white uniforms with the little aprons in the front and the little white cap on their head. This was “out” of restaurant fashion by then, but not long enough to become “kitschy”.

And the place was brightly lit, clean, with lots of round dining tables, like we had in our 50”s kitchen…and with several wooden pig signs all over.

What comes out is a plate with a pile of chopped meat with 3 veggie sides. (I’m salivating thinking of it!) It was, by far, one of the most amazing things I had ever, and I mean EVER put in my mouth….

Succulent, smoky, chewy but tender, brown and crunchy bits meaty and fatty and the same time. Just incredible… the veggies were all good, but I just wanted to bury my face in the pork.

The BBQ was available chopped, on a plate, in a sandwich, by the lb to go….I visited King’s on several return visits to Petersburg to see the boy friend, or while driving back to NJ to see the family, and since it was right off I-95, I couldn’t miss it.. I had people bring me that bbq if they were going or coming that way…so if you are traveling I-95 north or south, please, do let me know!

So now this map and the possibilities are peaking my interest.. I tell my friend, Linda Mayo Perez Williams (she’s another transplant from parts north and south on the east coast) all about it and she says, “Let’s go!” to which I replied, “When?”

So that’s what this Blog is about. I’m a holistic hairdresser and consultant by trade, Your Grooming Guru, to be exact, and I love to eat, cook and try funky out of the way places. So Linda and I have decided that over the next 5 years, we will be the best part of Thelma and Louise and hit as many of these BBQ huts and homes as we can.. And explore our land as we go! Hang on for the tasty tour!

Our 1st trip…. was in February 2014 to Hemmingway, SC to Scott’s BBQ. I had heard of Scott’s in an article telling about his family and famous bbq catering to all the rich folks at a fundraiser in Palmetto Bluff. Seems Like Rodney Scott is quite the networker and entrepreneur…He seems to know all the top chefs in Chucktown and surrounding areas and his bbq has gotten rave reviews. If you are a foodie, no doubt, you’ve heard of him. Lately, even more famous with Anthony Bourdain’s latest episode of “Parts Unknown”. So, Linda’s all about it and right then had some free travel time. So we made sure Scott’s is open on Wednesday, (which sometimes is a slow day for me) and we and our GPS’s get on the road.

Now, this trip was after that wind and rain storm that had closed schools all around Charleston. Northerner’s (and Charlestonians, in this case) laugh about stuff like that, just because it seems so silly to over react…

Well, driving up through Georgetown and then through all the small towns up towards the PeeDee region, we were taken aback.. it looked like a bulldozer had gone up the middle of the road and plowed a path.. that many trees were down everywhere…it was far more devastating than we knew…

Then there were Cotton fields.. Miles and miles of cotton fields.

As you will see these trips started for bbq, but became getting to know our state….

So Hemmingway is small, rural and poor.. Very poor. Lots of land and farms and trailers…

And then at the intersection of Route 261 and Cow Head Road (yes I’m serious) is Scott’s (or Ott’s as the blown off sign now said) Variety Store…like a country general store with folks hanging around outside, to the Vienna sausages and paper towels and Chef Boyardee on the shelves to the ordering window for the bbq. Manned by mostly family, 2 ladies took your order and put your plate together.. They didn’t care that we were tourists or that we traveled 2 hours to eat there, they just wanted to know how and what you wanted to eat.

So, having been on the road, I have to pee. Where’s the restroom, I ask. “Around the side and up the stairs” I’m told. So I go on the search for the bathroom. I see the stairs, and at the top a torn up plywood door with a lock on it...That can’t be it, I said fairly loudly to myself…so I continue on to the back of the building.. I see the pit house and someone tending the fire..Lots of good smell and I’m hungry…but I have to pee.

I go back inside and ask again, “ I can’t find it…where’s the bathroom? With a bit of an exasperated tone, and the lady at the counter answered in kind, “Around the corner and up the stairs!”

So around the corner and up the rickety stairs I climb. I get to the top, the lock is indeed open, and there is a short hallway to a single stall bathroom.. When telling this story, before, I’ve called this place a piece of Americana …actually a frightening bit of falling down construction that, fixed up, would look completely out of place..

The BBQ was good. A little dry, but ok. The Collards and Mac and cheese were as home cooked as they could get. But the best thing ever? The Cracklin’s. Not the skin’s, I’m told, but the pig rind…crunchy on the outside and soft and melt in your mouth delightful pieces of fat heaven! I bought 3 bags to bring home.

An experience and worth the drive? You bet.

But there’s more!

We finish lunch, with Linda getting a take home platter for her husband Jimmy, take pictures of the inside and outside of Scott’s, then get into the car…It’s still early, so I had another adventure in mind. Another foodie client of mine had told me about a place in Salters, SC. Country hams, she said…best ever. She didn’t know the name of the place, but like I said, we have GPS. So I put in Salters… it looks to be about 30 minutes away…

I can’t quite remember the roads we took to get there, but at some point we were on SC hwy 521. We had driven through lots of country farm land and found a little town. Not much there, but some “over the river and through the woods” kind of houses. Don’t quite know where folks out there buy groceries, but wherever, it’s a drive.

So we see a gas station with, get this, an ESSO sign… wow, my Western Pennsylvania childhood flashes in my mind! So we decide to stop there and ask where the place with the hams would be. As we pull up closer, don’t you know, I see hams! Lots of hams, hanging in the window…This is it! Then we see the sign, Cooper’s Country store. It’s been there since 1937.


It’s pretty much a gas station and general store, lots of hunting and fishing gear, lots of seemingly necessary odds and ends. And in the back, the meat counter. Seems they have BBQ as well, which, of course, we’ll need to go back for..

I got some center cut ham slices and a lb of bacon. Oh my…the bacon…I don’t know what they do to it and am glad I’m not a complete purist, (I’m normally a grass fed, antibiotic fee, humanely raised kind of person) cause in this case, I don’t care…it’s the best bacon I’ve EVER eaten, bar none. It’s kind of kind the quest for the perfect chocolate chip cookie…I’ve had Benton’s bacon, Craig Diehl’s bacon, Smoked, twisted and turned bacon…this stuff is the bacon of the God’s.

As I’m writing this, I’m planning a trip back there with a friend who loves country ham. Whatever. I’m getting some more of that bacon. Luckily, they do ship! And I’ll try the BBQ!

And we head home…a fun adventurous day, lots of miles and discoveries, full of previously unseen sites and tastes and BBQ! Thelma and Louise, only better!

Next episode,

Woffords BBQ in Bishopville SC (and Pearl Fryer’s Gardens!)