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Uncle Bennie Knows His Brunswick Stew:  By Coach R. Alan Richardson
 
I come from a long line of Brunswick stew connoisseurs including my Grandfather, L.C. Lindsey who we called Papa or Papa “C”, and Uncle Bennie, Bennie Lindsey.  These guys could and still can conjure up the best southern Brunswick stew on the planet and have kept the family recipe intact for several generations.  Many have tried to duplicate this masterpiece, but none have been able to brew it up the way they could and still do.  There are a few problems in trying to work through this scrumptious and detailed set of instructions.  Here are a few:
 
1.  Getting access to the recipe:
            I’m not completely sure, but I believe the original manuscript is written on Egyptian Papyrus by my great, great, great, great Grandfather who was the Pharoah’s  favorite cook.
One night he decided to have a drunken-hooten-nanny of a party that involved alcoholic beverages of all types, pole-dancing slaves, and barbecued pig, goat, camel, or whatever meat they could procure and conjured up something akin to the very first batch of Brunswick Stew.  Getting access to the original recipe involves being of the direct Lindsey lineage, knowing the secret code to open the triple-locked sarcophagus it is contained in, and keeping the 3 Hounds of Hell from devouring you that keep a constant vigilance over the sacred document.
 
2.  Reading the recipe:
            It starts out as a hand-written transcription of some 20+ pages in Arabic that would test the IQ of a nuclear physicist and the measurements allow you to cook up about 50 gallons of the stuff at one time.  Once your eyes have crossed from reader’s cramp and you finally get through this manual of instructions, it’s time to work it down into a useable form.  I mean, who has 50 gallon cauldrons or washtubs lying around to fix a batch of this magnitude.
 
3.  The measurements:
            Upon reading the recipe, you suddenly realize that the measurements are neither metric nor English in nature.  Uncle Bennie quickly reprimanded me for not knowing the “Lindsey” system of measurement.  3 pinches equals 1 dash, 8 dashes equal a portion, and 4 portions equal a goodly portion.  “Boy, don’t you know nothin’?”   One bunch is somewhat equal to ½ a whole bunch.  You get the picture.  It’s chef science to the nth degree in a lingo only a few can fathom.
 
It’s no wonder that few, if any, will ever get this right.  However, I have tried Brunswick stew in almost every Honky Tonk Juke Joint Barbecue Palace in the Southeast (or at least in Georgia) and it’s pretty obvious to me that there are a few basic, ingredients.  Corn and tomatoes along with other sauces like vinegar, barbecue sauce, and other “special ingredients” are found in all great Brunswick stew recipes.  The main ingredient, however, is always meat and plenty of it.  Doesn’t matter to me if it’s beef, pork, chicken, or turtle.  Yes, I said turtle.  My two ancestors make the best turtle stew you ever put in your mouth and if you don’t believe it, just ask any of the several thousand people who have tasted this delectable side dish.  Papa C even once told me that he made up a batch from carp (yep, the fish) and served it at a large barbecue outing and the people raved about how good it was.  Never knew what hit them.
 
I never thought it was possible to screw up Brunswick stew, but on a recent trip to South Georgia with my Uncle Bennie it became obvious to me that some folks have no idea what the ingredients for good old-fashioned Brunswick stew is. 
            
The conversation went something like this with Uncle Bennie asking me a simple, but lethal question.  “Where you want to eat?”  I answered that I was not very picky, but when he suggested a local barbecue pit I had never visited, I jumped at the opportunity.  “Sure, how’s their Brunswick stew?” I queried.  Uncle Bennie gave me notice that he wouldn’t recommend it, but that I might like it.  He said that the only kind he ate was Bennie-made.  My response was, “I’ve had Brunswick stew in almost every town in Georgia, and never tasted any that I didn’t like”.  He looked at me condescendingly with a knowing smile and said to have at it.  After all, I am a connoisseur of this Southern dish.  Upon arrival, the place was just what you would expect from a good old barbecue joint in that part of the world.  Dirt parking lot, lots of cars and customers, aroma of fresh-cooked pork and chicken, old photos on the walls, complete with old chairs and old southern ladies serving it up.
 
I checked the menu and immediately took an interest in the chipped barbecue plate complete with cole slaw, sweet tea, white bread, and of course, Brunswick Stew.  I couldn’t wait.
 
We waited as the country music blared.  The portly old waitress brought out our food and placed my plate in front of me.  After one glance, I knew something was amiss.  The barbecue and cole slaw looked normal, but what else was on my plate?   I told the waitress that I did not order their spaghetti and she informed me that it was Brunswick stew.  Excuse me, ma’am, but this looks like a cross between an Italian dish complete with spaghetti noodles and vegetable soup.  The number of green English peas in the dish was about 2/3 the total volume and I could not find any evidence of the main ingredient, MEAT! 

This had to be a mistake, but after one taste I knew that it still needed something to be palatable.  Uncle Bennie had tears in his eyes when he suggested I ask our waitress for some mozzarella or parmesan cheese to go along with my “spaghetti”.  Cornbread might have been my only other choice to help me choke down those detestable English peas.  I have seen a lot of things in my lifetime including the world’s fair, a goat-killing, and the first flight to the moon, but I had never seen anything like this in my life.
       
Uncle Bennie continued to chide me when he said, “I told you I wouldn’t recommend it.”  I have come to the conclusion that Uncle Bennie knows his Brunswick stew and I should have just ordered a Barbecue Sandwich complete with chips and a pickle.

Just goes to show you that few, if any, will ever master one of my all-time favorites.  If you ever want to find out what the true southern version tastes like, call Uncle Bennie at 1-888-EAT-STEW.  He’ll set you straight.


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