Comedian Stephen Colbert re-energized the debate over barbecue in the Carolinas on Wednesday night, saying he would learn to love the North Carolina version – and then pretending to gag when he tried it.
Colbert, of the Comedy Central's "Colbert Report," is from Charleston, S.C. His sister, Elizabeth Colbert Busch, lost to former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford in a race for Congress Tuesday. Sanford won despite the fact that he had an affair as governor and lied about his whereabouts.
On Wednesday, Colbert expressed outrage with his home state on his show.
"My sister lost! How could this happen?" he said. "I was so sure Lulu won because CNN called it for Sanford."
As for South Carolina, he said, "I feel so betrayed by South Carolina. If they are going to turn their backs on my family, I am going to turn my back on them. [Laughter] No, I am.
"From now on, and I never thought I would ever say this, I am from North Carolina.
"I'm a Tar Heel now. Whatever the [bleep] that means.
"But most shockingly, I will no longer enjoy South Carolina's tangy, savory and deeply delicious barbecue made with our unique mustard-based sauce.
"Now, instead, I now officially love North Carolina's sauceless, vinegar-based meat product that they call barbecue."
At that point, Colbert whipped out a big plate of barbecue and took a bite. Then he made a face, pretended to gag and acted like he was having a hard time swallowing.
"I tell you what," he said while shoveling the rest of the barbecue in the trash, "I might just save the rest of that for later."
He then guzzled a bottle of mustard sauce and declared, "I can't do it. I love South Carolina too much."
Firing back at Colbert's comments, North Carolina-based Smithfield's Chicken 'N Bar-B-Q director of operations, Richard Averitte, offered the satirist a pound of the restaurant's barbecue along with a pint of cole slaw.
"I don't think you've had the right eastern N.C. barbecue," Averitte wrote in an open letter to Colbert. "You are correct in that it is 'sauceless,' because it does not need sauce. Our barbecue is flavorful enough and compliments our cole slaw quite well."
Averitte also offered Colbert a free meal at one of Smithfield's North Carolina restaurants, adding that he "can bring a bottle of mustard sauce if you must, but only use it after you have first sampled our 'sauceless' barbecue.
Barbecue in North Carolina has two distinctive styles. In Eastern North Carolina, the popular style is a vinegar-based sauce, while in western North Carolina, a ketchup-based sauce is common.
South Carolina, meanwhile, favors a mustard-based style.