Brunswick, Ga., and Brunswick County, Va., have been duking it out for years. Each has its own competition with its own grand prize, but it's in Richmond that the champions meet head-on in neutral territory, at the largest festival of them all. The third annual International Brunswick Stew Festival will welcome 24 stew crews to the Farmers' Market Saturday, Nov. 2, including the winner of the first Stewbilee in Georgia in 1987.
The commonality between the stews is that they're all made from leftovers (chicken, potatoes, tomatoes, lima beans, corn and ham in Virginia's recipe), but what's leftover differs from region to region. That's why the competition has two prizes, the Original/Traditional Brunswick Stew, which accepts entrants from all states (although the Georgian recipe resembles ours, faithful Virginians know traditional Brunswick stew can only come from the commonwealth), and the International category in which anything goes. In the past, contestants in the International category which has included some immigrants, although they've all resided stateside have cooked with rabbit, seafood, ostrich and other assorted meats and veggies.
"There's a real brotherhood involved," says Kathy Emerson manager of the Farmers' Market. "This is very important, very, very important. We really have to preserve the heritage of our stew here."
Emerson says she'd eventually like to see the competition grow to the point where people are flying in from other countries to compete. During the competition's first year, a man from Florida offered to buy the whole cauldron from the Red Oak stew crew. This year, a block of rooms has been set aside at the Omni for out-of-towners, but sorry, stew's sold by the cup.
In addition to the stew-off, the festival features a parade at 10:30 a.m., music all day including world-renowned bluesmen Cephas & Wiggins at 4:30 p.m. and the crowd-pleasingRubber Chicken Makeover. For more information call 646-0477 or go to www.17thstreetfarmersmarket.com.
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