One of my favorite festivals is this weekend, and this time, the weather might actually be right for it. After being unseasonably warm the last few years, Saturday, November 6 looks to be chilly enough to actually enjoy Brunswick Stew.
One of my favorite festivals is this weekend, and this time, the weather might actually be right for it. After being unseasonably warm the last few years, Saturday, November 6 looks to be chilly enough to actually enjoy Brunswick Stew. Presented by the 17th Street Farmers Market and the Shockoe Bottom Neighborhood Association, the festival is in its 11th year.
The festival is held at the 17th Street Farmer’s Market from 11am to 4pm, and I recommend you get there no later than noon to avoid the lines and before they run out, which they do — every year. You can sample from about a dozen different farms and groups offering their own special type of stew, some sweeter, some more spicy. Most recipes are closely-guarded secrets, though some farms do share their basic ingredients: one or more types of meat, lima beans/butter beans, corn, okra, and other vegetables. Authentic recipes usually call for squirrel or rabbit meat, but if those are in the stews at this festival, they’re not telling us. I’ve not had squirrel, but I’d like to think I could tell. Virginia stew usually has shredded chicken or pork. It’s the consistency that really makes it a stew: slow simmered, thick, warm, and hearty.
The origin of Brunswick stew is hotly debated. Some say it is from near the town of Brunswick, Georgia, while others claim it is from Brunswick County in southern Virginia, or from the town of Leland, which is located in Brunswick County, North Carolina. I’m going with Virginia.
Three-ounce samples are $1 each, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but for just a few dollars, you can really make a meal out of them since the stew is so substantial. Groups also sell by the quart, but not usually until 3pm, and the line starts forming early in the afternoon for those. Each year I tell myself I need to buy more because come December, I realize I can’t get more for another year. Attendees also get to vote on which batch they liked the best.
Music will be by Proverbial and jazz artist Sharon Rae North. In 2006, they had a petting zoo of sorts in one of the back parking lots along 17th Street. I had not seen it yet when one of the announcers got on the microphone and said “If you are with the farm animals, you are needed, because apparently they’re driving cars back there.” I laughed, but when I walked over, I realized the animals really were loose in the parking lot, with people generally herding them back as needed. There were no farm animals last year though, so we’ll have to wait and see for 2010.
11th Annual Brunswick Stew Festival
Saturday, November 6
11am to 4pm
17th Street Farmers’ Market