It's no secret the South takes its barbecue seriously; every region has its own style and every family its own secret recipe. One Southern college is taking that to a new level, though. Wofford College, a small liberal arts college in upstate Spartanburg, South Carolina, is offering a course in barbecue, Southern Living reports.
The January interim, undergraduate course - subtitled "No Butt is Too Big" - is part of Wofford College's Interim program that allows students and faculty to spend the whole month of January focused on "a single topic designed to expand the walls of the traditional classroom, explore new and untried topics, take academic risks, observe issues in action, develop capabilities for independent learning and consider different peoples, place and professional options," according to the program's website.
The course was created by two Wofford faculty members, Dr. David Alvis and Coach Eric Nash. For those thinking it was all eating, though, think again.
Required reading included Barbecue: The History of an American Institution, Holy Smoke: The Big Book of North Carolina Barbecue and - of course - The History of South Carolina Barbecue by South Carolina Barbecue Association President Lake High.
Students were also required to prepare, cook and present one cut of meat each week, for a grade, ranked on a 10-point scale.
If you can't pick up and move to South Carolina for a month - the course's creators will offer it every other year - Nash and Alvis have five short lessons they learned along the way, shared with us courtesy of Southern Living:
1. People's taste in barbecue generally reflects their local upbringing. South Carolinians like the mustard sauce, Eastern North Carolina likes pulled pork from a whole hog with a little crackle (cooked skin), while Western North Carolina likes the tender shoulder. Knowing the origin of our preferences helps us appreciate the importance of our membership in a larger community.
2. Good barbecue has a story. Whether it's your winning sauce, your carefully prepared rub, or your methodical manner of smoking--good cue needs a long explanation.
3. Wood matters. How you smoke your meat, and the kind of wood you use, are essential to defining the taste of your barbecue. A good rub and sauce can add some flavor, but the wood makes all of the difference.
4. Barbecue is a noun, not a verb. Just because you put something on a grill does not make it barbecue.
5. The best barbecue in the world is that which is shared.
Since Wide Open Eats is in headquartered in Austin, Texas, we have a few ideas as to what goes into good barbecue, too.