Stan Woodward on Making "Pee Dee Bog"
By Stan Woodward, supplementing his 2015 interview with Saddler Taylor and Tom Davenport.
Another historic folk heritage foodway uniquely Southern and largely local to the South Carolina Low Country is a chicken and rice-based dish known in the Pee Dee region of the state as chicken bog, and in the more elite Charleston region as chicken purlieu. Traditionally made from yard chickens boiled down in black iron kettles, or wash pots, the concoction is slow-cooked until the chicken can be de-boned, then returned to the pot with ingredients that vary according to traditional recipes along with "secret ingredients" handed down by the family of bog-masters who each claim their bog is best. The most famous chicken bog today is cooked and is the main (and only) dish cooked at the annual historic Gallivant's Ferry (SC) democratic stump meeting which has been held since the late 1800's. I introduce this film with a short segment of that event, followed by a documentary that follows the famed "Chicken Bog King" of the Pee Dee as he and his volunteer fire department crew prepare a bog for the annual stump meeting for a US representative.
While I was working on the "Barbecue and Homecooking" documentary in 2004 for the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism, the person on staff at PRT who proved an advocate for my style of shooting the documentary suggested that I look into documenting a truly South Carolina foodway tradition called "Chicken Bog". Joan Davis invited me to attend a PRT planning meeting in Latta, SC where she wanted me to meet, Marshal Brigman, the Mayor of Latta, who was known as the "Chicken Bog King" of the Pee Dee. I attended with camera rolling and shot a wonderful opening for the documentary I ended up shooting on this SC folk heritage foodway. At that meeting, I was invited by the mayor to an upcoming bog cooking for a stump meeting to be held for John Spratt, a Democrat running for re-election for the U. S. House of Representatives.
Upon arrival at the Latta Volunteer Fire Department Community Center for the shoot, I was welcomed by the mayor as preparation for the bog had begun. Six huge black iron pots specially rigged on wheels were filled with water and heated by gas as an assortment of volunteers loaded bags of rice, trays of chicken plus various seasonings onto aluminum tables. As soon as the pots were brought to a boil the chicken was added and cooked for an hour and pulled from the pots to be de-boned before being re-introduced to the pots, when rice and seasonings were added. The pots were stirred with aluminum paddles until the mixture reached the proper consistency. The team of bog cooks working under bog-master, Mayor Brigman, then covered the pots with lids and rolled the steaming bog onto a van which was driven twenty miles to the elementary school where the stump meeting was being held and a large crowd had already gathered. The pots were rolled off of the van and into the cafeteria where Congressman Spratt was waiting. As soon as the pots appeared, the Congressman removed his suit jacket, rolled up his sleeves and proceeded serving the plates of the enthusiastic crowd, taking time to speak personally to each individual.
This bog, which I shot from start to finish and serving, was a classic example of how chicken bog is made for large gathering in the South Carolina Low Country.