Hed: Tupelo Hog Roast: the secret’s in the sauce
By Monique Harrison
The secret’s in the sauce.
And that secret is one Tupelo Hog Roasters sauce chairman Lee Wayne Neely isn’t divulging.
“Only three people know what’s in this sauce, here,” Neely said, as he used a ladle to stir a large boiler of the spicy, maroon-colored barbecue sauce he was preparing for Saturday’s annual Hog Roast, held inside the Tupelo Furniture Market to benefit the American Cancer Society. “And I’m not about to tell any more.”
But Neely did give a few tips for barbecue sauce-makers.
“The problem with most people is that they try to throw too many things in there,” he said. “You do that, and pretty soon, you can’t really taste anything. It’s just this odd mix. This sauce is pretty simple.”
Neely served up about 50 gallons of the sauce, which Hog Roast participants used to top off the barbecued pork workers began preparing early Friday morning.
“Yep, this is good,” said Wheeler’s Doug Holt, who is a regular at the annual event, which last year raised about $14,000 for the American Cancer Society of Lee County. “The Hog Roasters always cook up some quality food.”
While Holt downed the barbecue, baked beans and coleslaw served up assembly line-style by members of the Ladies Hog Roasters, others listened to live entertainment by a variety of acts, ranging from Southern Gospel to alternative rock. A handful of vendors also sold T-shirts and other items, raffles were held, and baked goods were available.
Preparing the estimated 4,000 pounds of meat served at the event required the work of about 60 men, who divided themselves into shifts.
The first shift of workers turned on their cookers about 6:30 on Friday morning, manning them for the entire day.
“You have to maintain a specific temperature when you are cooking the meat,” explained cooker Brad Scott. “It has to be between about 270 and around 300 degrees. It has to be watched.”
At nightfall Friday, a second wave of volunteers took over the project.
“We have to explain the little idiosyncrasies of the cookers we are using,” Scott said, referring to the 11 large, cylinder-shaped cookers Hog Roasters use to cook the meat. “For example, some of the cookers work better if their door is left slightly open. Others might have a flawed thermostat, but there are others ways to tell if it’s at the right temperature.”
Several men keep an eye on each of the cookers, sleeping in shifts.
“Someone has to be awake the entire time,” Scott said. “We certainly don’t want any fires out here.”
Scott said the volunteer cooks share one common bond.
“Everyone has been touched in some way by cancer,” Scott said. “It’s almost impossible to be unaffected by it. Most of us know several people who have died of it or even people who have it now. Some of us have family members who have it.”
The event got its start when two men began holding private cookouts in the backyard. When one of the men, Mike Braden, learned he had cancer, he decided to publicize the event and transform it into a fund-raiser.
The 100-plus-member organization also sponsors two nursing scholarships and helps support Mississippi camps designed to provide encouragement to both children and adults with cancer.
At Friday night’s kickoff event, smoked bologna, crawfish, stew, red beans and rice, smoked sausage and cornbread were served.