I visited the Brunswick area recently to speak about barbecue history at the Firebox festival, a fun event organized by Southern Soul Barbeque in St. Simons. While I was there, I stopped by the Brunswick stew marker at the I-95 rest stop nearby and noticed something interesting: They’ve changed the inscription.
The old marker, as seen on Page 23 of "Smokelore: A Short History of Barbecue in America," stated that the first pot of Brunswick stew was made on July 2, 1898, on St. Simons – a claim that I’ve always found charmingly suspect. First, there’s the specificity of that date. What’d they do: file for a patent? Second, people were probably making something like Brunswick stew many decades before 1898 in Brunswick County, Va., which also claims to have invented the dish. They’ve got a marker, too, also pictured on Page 23 of "Smokelore."
Well, I was looking at this photo of me taken recently at the Georgia marker and saw that the inscription now says Brunswick stew was first made in the Golden Isles during colonial days. I guess Georgia has back-dated its claim.
Whatever its origin, Brunswick stew is more likely to be served with barbecue in Georgia than anywhere else in the United States. In my view, it’s the most distinctive aspect of Georgia’s barbecue culture — the thing that sets us apart from all the other Dixie pigs you find across the South. While we were on the coast, Pam and I visited Southern Soul and discovered that it’s as good as everyone says. More to the point, they serve one of the best Brunswick stews I’ve ever tasted.
Many thanks to Griffin Bufkin of Southern Soul for inviting me to appear at their barbecue festival. Thanks to Robert Moss, barbecue editor for Southern Living (pictured with yours truly on the grounds), who appeared with me as part of a conversation on the history of barbecue, and to Stephanie Burt, host of the podcast The Southern Fork, for moderating.
And special thanks to our hosts in St. Simons, Phil and Leslie Graitcer, who also threw a book party for me and Pam the night before the festival. The party was co-hosted by my former AJC editor Hyde Post. Several former AJCers attended, including Bert Roughton, Jingle Davis, Kevin Austin and David Davidson. It was great to see everyone. And it was great to try some exceptional Brunswick stew in a place that might not have invented it but sure acts like it.