“Tell him Miss Naomi sent you.”
Hemingway, SC is not a place on everyone’s destination bucket list; a small American town where the post office shuts for lunch and no one passes a stranger in distress. As we stood, perplexed, outside the Post Office where we’d hoped to find directions to Rodney Scott’s BBQ (don’t trust Google maps on this one), Miss Naomi screeched to a stop in her pick-up and pointed us the right way, saying “everyone knows Rodney, he’s a good ol’ Southern boy – tell him I sent you”. By the time we’d got there she’d already phoned to say we were on our way. Yes, Hemingway’s seems the kind of place where everyone knows everyone and what’s going on.
Scott’s BBQ shack is exactly that – a shack. Or it was until it burnt down 2 years ago. Now it’s a big metal shed, agricultural in style but more fireproof than the previous wooden building – the result of the Rodney Scott in Exile tour when he took to the road and cooked at friends’ BBQ restaurants round the South to raise the $100,000 for his new shed – no insurance on the old one.
Apart from the metal structure, the cooking facilities are just what we’d been expecting of pit barbeques – proper pits with grills over them for the meat to lie on while cooking in the smoke from the embers beneath. Really not high-tech as you can see. The meat cooks low and slow over night, with someone staying up all night to keep an eye on things.
Oak, hickory and pecan logs are burnt in a big metal drum, then brought in by shovel and put in the bottom of the pits. Not something you’d do whilst wearing flip-flops.
Rodney appeared out of the smoke and was happy for us to come in and chat – as with all the pit masters we’ve met, very generous with his time and knowledge. One of the highlights of the trip has been chatting with these guys – their expertise is just second nature.
When we got there lunch was just finishing up but there were 2 pigs still on the grills and ready to go to a function for CNN in Charleston that night. Now Charleston, as we were to learn later, has no shortage of BBQ joints and CNN, well – they’re CNN, so to bring in some BBQ from 2 hours away meant it had to be something special.
We had the BBQ plate and the BBQ sandwich. The plate came with beans and slaw and the sandwich was a few pieces of white-sliced and a pile of the slow-cooked pork to make your own sandwich. Now we saw why CNN come knocking – the pork was delicious; hand-picked, melting, with a bit of a chilli kick. So good!
Rodney’s parents started the shack in 1972 cooking for the town and he grew up around it absorbing the whys and hows of BBQ cooking. When he took over the operation from his dad a few years ago, word started spreading beyond South Carolina about his BBQ and people came flocking – from Alaska, California, New York, Europe, the Middle East and Australia. Wherever we’ve been on our tour, everyone knew Rodney and recommended we go there. That’s really something and the fact that he hasn’t been tempted to do up the store and shack is testament to the fact that it’s the meat that matters.
Seems like we were lucky to find him there as it’s not uncommon for him to be flown off to cook BBQ at food festivals – last stop 2 weeks at Melbourne Food Festival in Australia. Maybe Dartmouth next??