Sunday, February 1, 2015

Mapping a Barbecue Trail

Imagine a state preparing a map of all its barbecue restaurants and making it available at welcome centers and through visitor programs. When I stopped at South Carolina’s welcome center on Interstate 95 after entering from Georgia, I was interested in getting only a few simple brochures and a state highway map.

Which South Carolina map connects to culture and history?

A mouth-watering
sandwich graces 
cover of trail map.
When I arrived at a stack of highway maps, my eyes were immediately attracted to a picture of a mouth-watering barbecue sandwich on the front panel of different map. About the same size as the highway map and folded into similar sections, this one is labeled “South Carolina BBQ Trail Map.” It also proclaims that it is “official” (which is missing from the front of the highway map that indicates “free distribution only”). 

Although the state highway map is a great resource to navigate through South Carolina and includes useful travel information such as road classifications, symbols, distances, and hurricane evaluation routes, it lacks a cultural connection. On the other hand, the BBQ Trail Map highlights the culture of the state as it brags that South Carolina invented barbecue and is the only state to offer the fourofficial sauces – vinegar-pepper, mustard, light tomato, and heavy tomato.

South Carolina offers four different barbecue sauces.

As the trail map describes the state’s sauces, it connects them to cultural history. For example, German immigrants with a taste for mustard who settled in the 1700s are credited with popularizing mustard-style barbecue in the middle of the state. (In fact, South Carolina is the only state where this sauce is found.)

Mustard sauce is popular in the midlands of South Carolina.

The trail map also explains how the roots of barbecue run “five centuries deep” in the state and date to the time when Spanish explorers observed “open pit cooking” by Native Americans on the coast of South Carolina. According to the map, the first pit-cooked barbecue in America was created when the Spanish, who brought hogs on their long voyages for food and even left some on coastal islands of the Southeast, cooked in the style of the American Indians. 

Which sauce would be your favorite?
Although BBQ trail maps of other states are available, in both online and printed versions, South Carolina is the first and only state to prepare a trail map and make it available at its welcome centers. Consider how much its trail map advances its reputation and credibility as a tourist destination, particularly for culinary travelers. Maps of other states, such as North Carolina, have been prepared by associations (trail by NC Barbecue Society) or by entrepreneurs (Great NC BBQ Map by Amanda Fisher and Paul Bright). However, the map of South Carolina includes all establishments and their sauces. It divides the state into three regions – mountains, midlands, and coastal – and lists all barbecue establishments, marks their locations on the map, and identifies which sauces they serve. The S.C. Department of Tourism deserves a round of applause for its initiative.

Finding barbecue in South Carolina is easy with the trail map.

When you travel, don’t travel with only a highway map – also take a map that includes cultural and culinary connections. If you are searching for barbecue, include South Carolina in your journey because it knows how to map a trail.

Pick up a trail map at a S.C. welcome center.