OK, most of you are wondering by now what I’m talking about but for folks in and around Kentucky they are in a tizzy because it’s burgoo season. Kentuckians revere this stuff; they hold festivals in honor of it, from May through September. So, what is it? Well, anything worth tasting is worth waiting for, right? So, please read on!
My intro to burgoo began of all places at Keeneland Racetrack. It was the spring of my first year of law school and I was totally fried the week before final exams. The first year of law school is a mind-altering experience and those around you either support you and help you survive or desert you, never to be seen again. It’s when you find out who your true friends really are and the rest don’t matter. Well, Karen was and still is a friend who matters and she could hear the declining state of my mental agility. She knew I needed a Thelma and Louise weekend of good old rock ‘n’ roll and horse-racing. Nothing like a racing thoroughbred to get the blood flowing.
So, Karen did all the planning and rushed me away for the weekend. Mind you, I carried my weekender and a separate suitcase of law books, light reading about torts, contracts and constitutional law. She did not deter me from reading but made sure I stayed too busy to bother. Upon landing we drove straight to Keeneland and made it just in time for post time. It was a chilly, spring day amid Kentucky bluegrass and we spent our time between races walking this beautiful track. Everyone thinks of Churchill Downs when they think of racing but insiders know Keeneland is where the true racing enthusiasts come to play and buy at the annual spring and fall sales. (oh, if only!)
Anyway, we spent the day drinking mint juleps, hoping to get warm. Ha! They worked to a point. However, we kept seeing signs for Kentucky Burgoo. We felt like a pair of Yankees not wanting to seem ignorant, so we ordered ourselves a cup. It looked like twice-cooked, purified stew for babies but it was divine and put us just right. It’s Kentucky meat stew that melts in your mouth and there’s a reason they keep it a secret. They don’t want a mass invasion in this tranquil part of the world. The base of the Keeneland recipe is beef with other meats added in and just like a Sicilian vastedda, you don’t ask what else is included. Legend has it that the old Kentucky miners used to use squirrel and possum and I just can’t imagine or stomach that.
TOURIST TIP – While the “Burgoo Season” actually starts in May each year and draws some 60,000 burgoo fans to Owensboro, KY, this weekend marks the annual Bar-B-Q and Burgoo Festival at the St. Columbia Parish in Lewisport, KY.
Owensboro and the neighboring burbs are located on the Ohio River between Cincinnati and St. Louis, about a five hour drive from Chicago and a three hour drive from Lexington…and go hungry. Owensboro also boasts the International Bluegrass Museum and the world’s oldest sassafras tree. It’s 300 years old and has a circumfrence of 16 feet.