Stadium Culinary Delights And Other Remembrances
Someone mentioned to me the other day how neat they thought it was that LSU has a concession stand in their football stadium ( it may even be a restaurant ) that serves BBQ prepared on the premises. This caused me to reflect on some of the culinary experiences I have had over the years at stadiums throughout the area.
The first one that comes to mind is Duke ( Wallace Wade Stadium ) where BBQ was prepared the entire night before a home game on pits in the stadium. In my mind, I can still smell the aroma of the whole pigs being cooked, waffling from the pits inside the stadium. It was an unique experience similar to that experienced at the State Fair where the excitement of the crowd is mixed with the smells of Italian sausage sandwiches, pizza, peppers and onions , and, of course, always BBQ. I have mentioned previously that I have in my possession an article from LIFE magazine in 1952 entitled, "Rambling Wreck Barbecues Duke". According to the article 800 dozen BBQ sandwiches were consumed at the game (3000 lbs) which was won by Ga. Tech 28-7. I don't know exactly when the practice of cooking BBQ at the stadium was discontinued but it was probably around the time everybody decided that everything we ate was unsanitary and I wouldn't be surprised to learn that the cessation of this practice somehow involved the Health Department, Those lovely folks who gave us those cute little plastic gloves so we won't all die from food poisoning. Makes you wonder how folks my age made it this far with all the uncleanliness we had to endure, doesn't it? :-)
Carolina used to have a neat arrangement on BBQ. I'm not aware of it if Carolina ever actually prepared BBQ at Kenan but Griffins from Goldsboro for years set up before the games and dished out some of the best BBQ I have ever eaten. My first experience with Griffins was when they set up in the old Tin Can before each home game. It was not crowded and you could just walk right in, get yourself a plate with sweet tea and sit down at one of the giant tables they set up for the occasion. After the Tin Can went the way of all tin cans, Griffins set up behind the field house and served the BBQ out of a ricketedy trailer type structure that was left in position from year to year. Man, I loved that old trailer. It just seemed to fit with BBQ and another thing about the Griffins arrangement that I liked was that you could just go over and sit underneath the trees where the had a few tables. You never knew who you would sit next to but that was part of the fun. I am really proud of the group that has worked so hard this year trying to restore some of the magic that used to be associated with a game in Kenan. Somewhere, we lost our bearings on our roots, and we got Nutbush or Red, Hot and Blue BBQ instead of the real thing which is so indigenous to North Carolina. I remember one time striking up a conversation with a lady under the tree and she turned out to be Quinton Smith's mother. For you younger folks, Quinton Smith was a Carolina receiver whose claim to fame was that he caught a critical pass that enabled the Heels to defeat Clemson. I forget the year, but the year doesn't matter.
Probably the best culinary story I remember comes from all places Scott Stadium on the campus of the University of Virginia. I had served in the Air Force with a fellow who enrolled at UVA at the same time I entered UNC. We maintained contact with each other and he invited me up to UNC-UVA game in 1956. It was there that I was introduced to a "pronto pup" later known as a corn dog. I had never seen one of these creatures before and I was thoroughly enamored with a hot dog fried in a batter on the spot with a stick inserted in the hot dog to serve as a "handle." I remember vividly there being a bowl of mustard on the counter with an ordinary paint brush residing it it for brushing the mustard onto the pronto pup. They discontinued serving pronto pups in the early 60s when I worked for UVA, claiming that the vendor who had the contract for marketing the pups left the cooking oil in the fryer from one season to the next. I often wondered if that was true or was the University interested in getting more involved in the concession business and needed to break the contract. The University, once it took over the concession, never did return pronto pups to the menu. Several years after I first saw pronto pups, a similar if not identical product appeared on the commercial market known as "corn dogs". I have had corn dogs but I have never had one to taste as good as a pronto pup. Maybe it was the stadium atmosphere.
Oh yes, we won that year in Charlottesville even though Carolina didn't win but two games all season long. I remember an incident at the game that could have gotten ugly but it didn't. I was sitting in the middle of the UVA student section ( not my choice of where to sit-had something to do with money) and I knew that I had to watch my behavior or I would quickly become the entertainment of the day rather than the football game. I tried to refrain from showing my support for the Heels but my sentiment must have shown because during the game a UVA student asked me who I was for. Knowing the potential for trouble, I replied that I was for UVA but my friend heard the exchange and interrupted. I remember his words like they were uttered yesterday. He said," He is for Carolina and he's my guest. What damn business is it of yours?" I slumped down in my seat because I had seen my friend in action physically and I was afraid he was going to go up side the student's head. The student unbelievably apologized but I kept pretty quiet for the rest of the game, hoping to get out of the stadium with no more trouble. It seems like every time I attend a game in Scott Stadium I get into some kind of disagreement so I decided not to attend any more games there. The last time I was there, I got into an argument with a UNC fan. Now you know when that happens it is time to reexamine your position. I'll tell you that story sometime.
This article has run longer than I thought it would so I will save my remembrances of UNC games at LSU and Ohio State until later.
By the way, I am pleased that they are going to have N.C. BBQ again at the UNC games this year. I am told that Parkers from Wilson will have BBQ at Tar Heel Town prior to the games. It will be at Polk Place and will cost something like $6.25 for a plate. Don't know whether that includes sweet tea or no. Bring it on.