Late last year, I heard a rumor about a huge cookout that had occurred somewhere in the Upstate. Something about a whole cow and a couple of pigs over open fires over the course of two days.
It sounded like a lot of good fun and great food; I remember feeling jealous that I had heard about it after the fact. I thought it was a one-time event so, eventually, I shrugged it off.
Imagine my surprise a couple of weeks ago when one of the guys I follow on Twitter started up a conversation with this tweet: “Whole hog #bbq? That’s easy. Try a whole cow.” Jeff Bannister, one of the organizers of Bovinova 2013, the ultimate cookout weekend, was announcing the dates for this year’s event in Simpsonville (May 10 and 11).
A re-tweet here and an email message there led to a phone conversation with Bannister, who provided me with some background about this grill fest.
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The first Bovinova event was two years ago. Bannister and a few of his friends saw Chef Francis Mallmann, of Uruguay, roasting a whole cow on a television show. Inspired, these businessmen thought they would put their love of food and grilling (and partying) to good use and organize an event that would not only show off their mad grilling skills but would be of a service to the community.
In the past, Bovinova has been used to raise money for the Wounded Warriors Project and Spartanburg Methodist College. This year, proceeds will go to Special Olympics and Greenville’s Loaves and Fishes charities.
So, what’s on the menu this year?
According to Bannister, so far, the menu includes one cow, one calf, two wild boars, three turkeys, seven pigs, 10 chickens, six goats, six lambs, one llama, (possibly) one emu and (possibly) a 10-foot-long alligator tail. Everything grilled over an open flame.
Also, Bannister has been experimenting with a 52-inch paella pan AND has plans to fire roast some mussels (a technique known as “eclade” where mussels are arranged on a plank, hinged side up, and pine needles are mounded on top to a depth of a foot or so and then set on fire. The pine needles burn down and the ashes are swept away and the mussels are eaten directly from the shell). He says, that once all of the fires are lit, the glow from the event should be able to be seen from the orbiting International Space Station.
Does that sound like the makings of a fun weekend or what?
This is a family-friendly event and children are welcome. There will be some seating available under the tents, but you could bring a lawn chair. Bannister wants folks who attend to experience something exciting and different. Something that they never knew existed. And, he hopes, that this communal food event will help people develop new relationships, not only with others, but with the food that they eat.
Bannister hand selects the animals from farmers and folks that he trusts. He can tell you where the cow and goats and chickens and lambs come from and how they were raised.
Speaking of the goats and lambs, Bannister will be grilling animals sourced from different locations (a lamb from Abbeville and a lamb from New Zealand, for instance) side-by-side so that you can sample the difference in taste of the same cut of meat. A vertical tasting, like wine, shall we say. The terrior of the meat, if you want to get fancy.
There will be beer from local breweries and wine available. And from the pictures on their Facebook page, quite a lot of sabering of champagne bottles will be taking place (that’s when you separate the champagne cork from the champagne bottle using a sword or very large knife).
Two years ago, the first Bovinova attracted 450 people, Bannister and friends had expected 250. Last year they expected 450 and had close to 750 and Cooking Channel’s “Man, Fire, Food” shot a segment there. This year they hope to keep the crowd to around 750, so get your tickets now if you’re interested in attending. Who knows, maybe you’ll show up on satellite imagery.