Sunday, July 10, 2016

Chapter 1 Scott's' bbq in Hemmingway. Coopers Country Store, Salters

Chapter I
Hemminway, SC

Our 1st trip…. was in February 2014 to Hemmingway, SC to Scott’s BBQ. I had heard of Scott’s in an article telling about his family and famous bbq  catering to all the rich folks at a fundraiser in Palmetto Bluff. Seems Like Rodney Scott is quite the networker and entrepreneur…He seems to know all the top chefs in Chucktown and surrounding areas and his bbq has gotten rave reviews. If you are a foodie, no doubt, you’ve heard of him. Lately, even more famous with Anthony Bourdain’s latest episode of “Parts Unknown”. So, Linda’s all about it and right then had some free travel time. So we made sure Scott’s is open on Wednesday, (which sometimes is a slow day for me) and we and our GPS’s get on the road.

Now, this trip was after that wind and rain storm that had closed schools all around Charleston. Northerner’s (and Charlestonians', in this case) laugh about stuff like that, just because it seems so silly to over react…

Well, driving up through Georgetown and then through all the small towns up towards the PeeDee region, we were taken aback.. it looked like a bulldozer had gone up the middle of the road and plowed a path.. that many trees were down everywhere…it was far more devastating than we knew…

Then there were Cotton fields.. Miles and miles of cotton fields.

As you will see these trips started for bbq, but became getting to know our state….

So Hemmingway is small, rural and poor.. Very poor. Lots of land and farms and trailers…

And then at the intersection of Route 261 and Cow Head Road (yes I’m serious) is Scott’s (or Ott’s as the blown off sign now said) Variety Store…like a country general store with folks hanging around outside, to the Vienna sausages and paper towels and Chef Boyardee on the shelves to the ordering window for the bbq. Manned by mostly family, 2 ladies took your order and put your plate together.. They didn’t care that we were tourists or that we traveled 2 hours to eat there, they just wanted to know how and what you wanted to eat.

So, having been on the road, I have to pee. Where’s the restroom, I ask. “Around the side and up the stairs” I’m told. So I go on the search for the bathroom. I see the stairs, and at the top a torn up plywood door with a lock on it...That can’t be it, I said fairly loudly to myself…so I continue on to the back of the building.. I see the pit house and someone tending the fire..Lots of good smell and I’m hungry…but I have to pee.

I go back inside and ask again, “ I can’t find it…where’s the bathroom? With a bit of an exasperated tone, and the lady at the counter answered in kind, “Around the corner and up the stairs!”

So around the corner and up the rickety stairs I climb. I get to the top, the lock is indeed open, and there is a short hallway to a single stall bathroom.. When telling this story, before, I’ve called this place a piece of Americana …actually a frightening bit of falling down construction that, fixed up, would look completely out of place..

The BBQ was good. A little dry, but okay. The Collards and Mac and cheese  were as home cooked as they could get. But the best thing ever? The Cracklin’s. Not the skin’s, I’m told, but the pig rind…crunchy on the outside and soft and melt in your mouth delightful pieces of fat heaven! I bought 3 bags to bring home.

An experience and worth the drive? You bet.

But there’s more!

We finish lunch, with Linda getting a take home platter for her husband Jimmy, take pictures of the inside and outside of Scott’s, then get into the car…It’s still early, so I had another adventure in mind. Another foodie client of mine had told me about a place in Salters, SC. Country hams, she said…best ever. She didn’t know the name of the place, but like I said, we have GPS. So I put in Salters… it looks to be about 30 minutes away…

I can’t quite remember the roads we took to get there, but at some point we were on SC Hwy 521. We had driven through lots of country farm land  and found a little town. Not much there, but some “over the river and through the woods” kind of houses. Don’t quite know where folks out there buy groceries, but wherever, it’s a drive.

So we see a gas station with, get this, an ESSO sign… wow, my Western Pennsylvania childhood flashes in my mind! So we decide to stop there and ask where the place with the hams would be. As we pull up closer, don’t you know, I see hams! Lots of hams, hanging in the window…This is it! Then we see the sign, Cooper’s Country store. It’s been there since 1937.


It’s pretty much a gas station and general store, lots of hunting and fishing gear, lots of seemingly necessary odds and ends. And in the back, the meat counter. Seems they have BBQ as well, which, of course, we’ll need to go back for..

I got some center cut ham slices and a lb of bacon. Oh my…the bacon…I  don’t know what they do to it and am glad I’m not a complete purist, (I’m normally a grass fed, antibiotic fee, humanely raised kind of person) cause in this case, I don’t care…it’s the best bacon I’ve EVER eaten, bar none. It’s kind of kind the quest for the perfect chocolate chip cookie…I’ve had Benton’s bacon, Craig Diehl’s bacon, Smoked, twisted and turned bacon…this stuff is the bacon of the God’s.

As I’m writing this, I’m planning a trip back there with a friend who loves country ham. Whatever. I’m getting some more of that bacon. Luckily, they do ship! And I’ll try the BBQ!

And we head home…a fun adventurous day, lots of miles and discoveries, full of previously unseen sites and tastes and BBQ! Thelma and Louise, only better!

Next episode,

Woffords BBQ in Bishopville SC (and Pearl Fryer’s Gardens!)

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