The Tale of a Racist BBQ Sauce

Evil colonel sanders3 copy

The evil Colonel Sanders?

The Pot and Pan Handler: adventures with a Jarhead, the threat of a weekday mineral and the evil Colonel Sanders with racist BBQ sauce.

Welcome gentle readers both old and new, to the Pot and Pan Handlers depraved blog pertaining to the subject of food and travel, sometimes more and sometimes much, much less. Today we are deep in the sloppy seconds of Beavis and Butthead as we are doing America, one city at a time. Break out the stars and bars, because today our location is a piece of history itself: Charleston, South Carolina. Where an old friend will point us in the direction of a food fight that has little to do with food… Welcome to the American south.

The Jarhead

We were in Charleston, South Carolina, and it was hot. The sun was furious and the moist air inhospitably welcomed us. I’m anxious, as we are wandering around a hotel parking lot waiting for a friend unseen for nearly twenty years. Soon a figure approaches, exclaiming “Pot and Pan Handler?!” Just like that… Reunited, I take a moment to digest the man who had replaced the boy I once knew. Gone were the large glasses, skinny unadorned arms and hair band hair. Replaced with the wizened 1000 yard stare of a marine, jacked biceps artfully adorned with sleeve tattoos and a clean shaven head. My old friend The Jarhead, completely changed, yet somehow still the same.

Threat of a weekday mineral

Idle chatter was brief as it was way too hot to stand around frying like the proverbial sidewalk egg. In an instant The Jarhead looked at us and muttered a mixed idle threat… “Where would you like to eat lunch?” “We could go to the Ruby Tuesday across the street.” Whoa, what a mixed message, that’s like saying “I could wash your car; I’ve got a lot of saltwater.” What the hell, dude? Charleston is one of the premiere dining destinations in the country after all. Ruby Tuesday… Seriously, dude, we can eat at one of them anywhere.

“Or…” The Jarhead continued, “We could go to the place with the racist BBQ sauce.” Ah ha, we had never heard of a racist BBQ sauce, this demanded to be investigated. So in the interest of interest, we maintained that BBQ racist or otherwise, would be our restaurant of choice. While driving there The Jarhead told the story of the evil Colonel Sanders with the racist BBQ.

Evil Colonel Sanders and the racist BBQ sauce

The story starts with BBQ, South Carolina BBQ to be exact. As you may, or may not know, in S.C. BBQ is mustard based. Not the watery and bitterly vinegary BBQ sauce like the nearly inedible BBQ sauce you can find in Eastern North Carolina. Instead it is sweet, savory and spicy with a consistency not unlike honey mustard and in Charleston S.C. Maurice Bessinger and family makes some of the most popular S.C. BBQ sauce that can be found.

In Charleston, the entire Bessinger family is well known not only for their families BBQ restaurant empire, that started in in 1953 with one store that swelled to 9 restaurants by 2002 and their array of delightfully different Carolina Gold BBQ sauce. The Bessinger family is also known for (at least in the case of Maurice), for racism, or as a segregationist if you prefer… (Would a racist by any other name be as hateful?) This racism and his penchants for wearing dapper southern suits, earned Mr. Bessinger the moniker of the Evil Colonel Sanders, at least locally.

Maurice’s nature would display itself locally for decades. Consider, for example, his attempt to evade integration of his restaurants after the 1964 Civil Rights act by refusing to serve patrons with out of state plates. Claiming that his restaurant was sourced entirely by South Carolina businesses and therefore his restaurant engaged in no interstate commerce and should be exempt from integration. Surprise! He lost the lawsuit commonly referred to as Newman vs. Piggy Park Enterprises and thus was begrudgingly forced to integrate…

Like a comic book super villain, this wasn’t the last Charleston or the United States would hear of Maurice Bessinger. The year was 2000 George Dubya was the 43rd President of the United States and Americans had little to do besides not know who the fuck Osama Bin Laden is, query: “Will the real Slim Shady please stand up?”, bomb the shit out of Afghanistan and protest the stars and bars so elegantly flapping in the wind above the capitol of South Carolina.

So, on Jan 17 2000 almost 50,000 people marched in Columbia, S.C., to protest the flying of the Confederate battle flag over the state capitol. South Carolina in a rare example of conscious then removed the flag from the capitol building to a picnic grounds, near the far less tasteful location, if not less racist Confederate soldier monument.

This vile submission was not lost on Maurice Bessinger who in response to the response began proudly flying the confederate flag over his restaurants and prominently portraying the confederate flag on his bottles of widely distributed Carolina Gold BBQ Sauce. As anyone else would’ve suspected the response, to the response, of the response was that almost every major market that carried Mr. Bessinger’s sauces, decided to promptly remove the BBQ sauces with the sporty new confederate flag motif.

BBQ copy

Racism in so many colors.

Brotha from anotha prerogative

That’s when the elder Bessinger brother, Melvin saw his moment and he took it, realizing that overt racism was in all probability a shitty business plan. He released his own Carolina Gold recipe BBQ sauce that was completely different, in the fact that it was probably, nearly the exact same. When the NAACP inevitably came knocking Melvin assured them that his views on race were a little more humane and a lot less monstrous than his misguided little brother’s and they were allowed to remain on the shelves.

Eventually other brothers got involved with marketing Carolina Gold BBQ sauces. Including Thomas who supplied us with an original recipe, but they’ve also got it in spicy if you like BBQ with a kick. They’ve even got a Hickory Red Recipe if tomato based BBQ is how you roll.

Bessingers red copy

BBQ the way the Northern do.

So how was the Q @ Bessingers?

Superlative at least at Thomas Bessinger’s. The restaurant itself is representative of most BBQ spots with counter service. The brisket was smoky, salty deliciousness. The only thing missing in the hash was the oink. When it comes to the religion of BBQ, I’ve always tended to identify with the dry rub congregation, but in this BBQ sauce, if not just a lil’ too sweet for my taste, the Bessingers might’ve just found a convert.

The Bessingers to this day continue to run their BBQ Empire and are busy pretending that poor misguided Maurice never existed… Now that’s a good business plan!

Q-Tipz

Wanna’ try South Carolina style BBQ at home? Here’s an easy to make not quite as tasty as the original put pretty damn tasty version you can make at home.

Carolina Gold BBQ Clone:

  • ¾ cup of yellow mustard (think ballpark)
  • ¼ cup light brown sugar
  • ¼ cup tomato paste
  • 2.5 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ Tablespoon dried minced onion
  • ½ teaspoon molasses
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper (can adjust to desired heat level)
  • ¼ teaspoon paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • A pinch of salt or two to taste

Combine all in a saucepan, bring to a simmer and whisk until the sugar is dissolved. Store this BBQ sauce in a sterilized jar, for a week in the fridge. Spread liberally on pork, chicken, ham, flip-flops and anything else that can use a sweet kick of racist BBQ sauce.

Carolina gold bbq copy

Okay so it looks a little bit like baby poop, but in no time you can have it looking like this.

bessingers wings copy

That looks better, BBQ is sometimes an accessory after all.

 

Coming soon: The Taco Tuesday Takedown… 8 taco joints within 1.7 miles of one another all with a chicken soft taco contender. Who will reign chicken soft taco supreme?

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Posted in Charleston, Restaurants, SC
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