Brunswick, Georgia, claims to be the place of origin for Brunswick stew. A twenty-five-gallon iron pot outside that coastal town
As the Georgia humorist Roy Blount Jr. quipped, "Brunswick stew is what happens when small mammals carrying ears of corn fall into barbeque pits." Stews that combine meat and grain probably originated with ancient agriculturalists, in both the Old and New Worlds. According to the anthropologist Charles Hudson, Southeastern Indians made a stew from hominy and groundhog or squirrel, and also boiled bear and deer meat with fresh corn kernels and squash. Brunswick stew belongs to a family of southern stews, its closest relative perhaps being Kentucky burgoo.
Good-natured "stew wars" continue to rage between Georgia and Virginia. If Georgia acquired Brunswick stew relatively late (south Georgian J. L. Herring, describing a ca. 1880 July Fourth barbecue
Frequently associated with barbecue and presided over by stew "masters" when made in quantity, Brunswick stew remains a customary feature of Georgia fund-raisers, political rallies, and family reunions like that of the Sproulls in Bartow County. In today's age of individualism, the preparation and consumption of Brunswick stew as a social activity is now more important than ever in supporting community cohesion.
Joseph E. Dabney, Smokehouse Ham, Spoon Bread, and Scuppernong Wine: The Folklore and Art of Southern Appalachian Cooking (Nashville, Tenn.: Cumberland House, 1998).
Brunswick Stew: A Virginia Treasure, prod. and dir. Stan Woodward (Greenville, S.C.: Woodward Studio, 1998), video.
John A. Burrison, Georgia State University
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