South Carolina is unique in many ways. I’ll bet you can name a dozen or so with little or no effort, but did you know that we’re unique in one particular way that often goes unnoticed? You can spell that uniqueness: “B-B-Q.” Of course you can spell it many other ways, but the way selected by our state’s premier proponents of the craft is “b-a-r-b-e-q-u-e.” What’s so unique? South Carolina is arguably the only state in the Union where the four types of barbeque can be found: Vinegar and Pepper, Mustard, Light Tomato and Heavy Tomato.
The South Carolina Barbeque Association (“SCBA”) is not only the chief proponent for all things barbeque in South Carolina, it is the largest state-based group of its type in the nation. The SCBA is now over 700+ members strong after starting with about 100 only a few years ago.
I was first introduced to the SCBA by my friend Bill Pickle. Apart from his numerous talents as a political expert and radio host, Bill is a Certified Master Judge of South Carolina barbeque and he’s taught me quite a bit about the subject through personal conversations and through a Pee Dee Food Show episode that I’ll link here (PDFS Episode #26). My introduction was through attendance at the 2012 Annual Meeting in Columbia. Lake High, founder and president, and Morrey Thomas, executive director, were our hosts for the full day event which included a barbeque lunch supplied by the 2011 champion SCBA cooking team, Up In Smoke. The day also included a barbeque sauce rating opportunity where each of us tasted several blinded samples from across the state, as well as the requisite business meeting for the organization.
How did the SCBA become so popular among fans of the ‘que? Well, apart from the obvious, that South Carolinians love their barbeque, its because the nonprofit organization takes its work seriously and has gained the respect of cooking teams and competition organizers. It grew again this year — by over 200 members since 2011. At the Annual Meeting Lake High said something that tickled me. He’s evidently a practical yet enthusiastic man. He said, “There will be a time when [the SCBA] doesn’t get any bigger. It happens to everything. But this ain’t that time.”
Contrary to common perception, the SCBA does not host competitions or sponsor cooking teams, what it does is provide trained, certified judges for those competition and teams. That’s all, but that’s not a small thing. Each candidate that wishes to become a certified judge must participate in four events as what’s known as a “novice judge.” Novices judge real events, but their scores do not count toward determination of the winners. They participate to learn the scoring process, as well as what to look for when judging great barbeque. In addition to the novice table judging, each candidate must attend a special seminar and cook with a competition team on at least one occasion.
Apart from nominal annual membership dues and seminar fees (each $35.00), the SCBA is funded by fees it charges to SCBA-judged competitions like the one that I attended in Lake City not long ago. That was my first novice table toward becoming a certified judge and I can’t wait for my second. The SCBA earns between $600 to $800 in contest fees which goes to pay the coordinating judge, or Marshal, and Calculator, as well as cover direct expenses like aprons.
The SCBA is serving a key role in helping South Carolina maintain and advance its unique food culture, and I’m proud to be a member. If you’d like to learn more, below are some SCBA links that I’d recommend you explore. Then I suggest you consider joining the fun.
- SCBA Website
- Brief History of Barbeque by Lake High
- Official Events Calendar
- 2012 State Championship Team Standings
- Top 100 Barbeque Restaurants in South Carolina (Map – 100 Mile, Map – Worth the Trip)
At my Lake City training session, Morrey Thomas was my table’s teacher and he was phenomenal. The man knows his barbeque and loves sharing his avocation with others. You may recognize Morrey’s name, because he’s the publisher of the Darlington News&Press. You can listen to part of that training session on this episode of the Pee Dee Food Show (PDFS Episode #32). You can also read more about becoming a certified judge here.
Photos from the 2012 SCBA Annual Meeting
About the AuthorKevin Barron is a husband, father, self-described geek, and enthusiastic founder of PeeDeeFoodie.com. He also hosts its companion podcast, the Pee Dee Food Show, which can be found on iTunes and the blog. Learn more about Kevin under the Contributors tab above.
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