While anecdotal evidence exists that the name chicken bog was related to the “boggy” nature of its home, the Pee Dee, the southern writer James Villas states in his book Stews, Bogs and Burgoos that a “bog (unlike a pilau) is any stew that includes wet, soggy rice.” In her benchmark work, The Carolina Rice Kitchen, Karen Hess is more specific, describing chicken bog as a pilau made in large batches, which would always cause it to end up wet. The culinary historian Damon Lee Fowler defines chicken bog as “a highly localized form of pilau, probably of African provenance, in the U.S. found only in South Carolina.” From research in the Pee Dee region for his documentary film Southern Stews: A Taste of the South, Stan Woodward concluded that “while fondly cherished as the native stew of the Pee Dee . . . the name chicken bog was never well documented by its users . . . because it was a commonplace high protein meal that fed a lot of people in a poor environment.”
Traditionally, the only ingredients are chicken, rice, sausage, and onions, seasoned with salt and plenty of black pepper. The best chicken to use is an older hen, past good egg production, free-range and full of flavor; the second choice is a fat rooster. The chicken is poached, and then its meat is pulled off the bone, not chopped. The fat is removed from the broth, and then the rice, chicken, sausage, and onions all simmer gently together in the broth until the rice is “done.”
Whether chicken bog is eaten with a fork or a spoon depends on the cook. Even for a respected Pee Dee “bogmaster,” says Woodward, cooking bog in fifty-gallon wash pots is an art. It is “good bog if the rice is plump and moist, holds on to one another real good and sits up above a little gravy in the bottom of the pot and don’t cling to the chicken.”
Chicken bog is the main attraction at the annual Democratic stump meeting at Galivants Ferry, near the Little Pee Dee River. Traditional accompaniments are snap beans, white rolls, and Pepsi. The same combination is served in Loris, a small town north of Myrtle Beach. Loris residents decided in 1979 to make chicken bog the theme for an annual festival in October, which centers around the “Bog-Off,” a cooking competition for the best chicken bog. In 2001 attendance at the festival numbered approximately twenty thousand.
Egerton, John. Southern Food: At Home, on the Road, in History. New York: Knopf, 1987.
Hess, Karen. The Carolina Rice Kitchen: The African Connection. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1992.
Southern Stews: A Taste of the South. Produced and directed by Stan Woodward. Greenville, S.C.: Woodward Studio, 2002. Videocassette.
Villas, James. Stews, Bogs and Burgoos. New York: Morrow, 1997.