The Greater Gulf States BBQ Championship

For many of us, "barbeque" is just a word describing outdoor cooking. But barbeque is a pillar of the culture in the southeast U.S. -- an extremely popular type of food as well as a weekend hobby for hundreds of amateur cooking teams.

We knew that people in this region love eating barbequed meats, and especially pork. But we didn't realize that barbeque is a competitive event until we stopped by the Greater Gulf States BBQ Championship held on the weekend that we were visiting Mobile, Alabama. Some 65 BBQ cooking teams - mostly guys - drove from states all over the southeast to compete for $20,000 in prizes.

It turns out that there are two major BBQ competition circuits. The Mobile event was one of over 50 annual BBQ contests sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbeque Society. Memphis in May is the other BBQ group, promoting their annual Memphis cookoff as The Super Bowl of Swine and The College of Pig Knowledge.

It was clearly important for each cooking team to have an amusing and unique name. We chatted with the "Butts, Bellies, & Buddies" and "Piggin' and Grinnin'" groups, and based on their advice we opted to buy dinner from the "Music City Pig Pals". Their food was great, but we didn't stay long enough to find out who won the competition.