SEC BBQ Smack Down

Aug 25, 2014

For Texas AM, it's a no-win with barbecue bet.

If geography is destiny, then barbecue in the South is surely the signpost. Two geography departments are putting their states’ barbecue bragging rights to the test in a meat-based bet on the outcome of the SEC season opener between the University of South Carolina and Texas A&M. In short, or short ribs, the loser has to send a shipment of his state’s best to the winner. But for Texans, this so-called bounty could be bust rather than boon.

“After all, South Carolina’s barbecue sauce, at least around Columbia, is mustard based,” says David Cairns, head of the Department of Geography at Texas A&M. Really? Mustard?

The bet came about through a longstanding friendship between Cairns and his counterpart John Kupfer, who is department head of geography at South Carolina. Kupfer and Cairns met in graduate school, studied under the same professor and finished their dissertations a few months apart. The close-knit geography community has resulted in longstanding intellectual and collegial ties between the two departments.

Furthermore, South Carolina’s geography department is similar to the one at Texas A&M, Cairns says, both in size and research focus. “Like our department, South Carolina’s areas of research focus on human, physical and environmental geography and Geographic Information Systems,” Cairns says. The two programs also offer bachelors’ through doctoral degrees.

Texas A&M is still the new kid on the SEC block, but membership into the fiercest fan-based conference in the nation goes beyond game-day rivalry and legendary tailgates. “Being a member of the SEC also gives students and faculty opportunities for cooperation and collaboration,” Cairns points out. For instance, he says, students from one conference school can study for a semester or year at another SEC institution and pay the host institution’s tuition. This includes sharing or collaborating in study abroad programs.

South Carolina geographers are mighty proud of one achievement, however. They have created a barbecue-based state map indicating where the different kinds of barbecue can be found.

That’s all well and good, Cairns says, “but I doubt the University of South Carolina has a barbecue camp. Texas A&M does.” Not to mention Texans devour Texas Monthly’s highly anticipated annual listing of the best barbecue in the state. And although almost every state has wine trails these days, only Texas can lay claim to a barbecue trail.

So in the end, who really wins? If South Carolina prevails, Cairns will send 10 pounds of beef brisket barbecue and sauce, obviously the best on the planet. When Texas A&M wins, Kupfer sends 10 pounds of Carolina pork barbecue with a variety of mustard, vinegar and pepper, and ketchup-based sauces. Again, mustard? Really?

Note: Texas A&M’s barbecue camp is through the Department of Animal Science. For the golden triangle—or rather rectangle of Texas barbecue—see the trail map.

Karen Riedel
Communications Manager
College of Geosciences