When Mitt Romney touched down in Jackson, Miss., on Monday, he was greeted by both local congressman Gregg Harper and some real Jackson barbecue.
The Hickory Pit, a local barbecue joint, sent Mitt and his crew all the fixings of a classic barbecue meal: pork, baked beans, potato salad, coleslaw, salad, buns and Texas toast. They also included a Hershey pie for dessert.
Romney certainly enjoyed the Southern hospitality, as his bodyguard tweeted a photo of him with barbecue sauce soaked onto his sleeves and shirt, saying, "Got some great Mississippi BBQ at the Hickory Pit. Gov managed to get more BBQ on him than he ate."
Mississippi barbecue is often characterized by its thick, sweet barbecue sauce, so it’s tough not to make a mess. But are these barbecue stains a badge of honor or a source of embarrassment?
We put the question to a pitmaster, who tells us it’s just a sign you ate some finger-lickin’ good barbecue.
“Getting barbecue on your shirtsleeves is "a necessity to some degree,” Wayne Mueller, owner of Louie Mueller Barbecue in Taylor, Texas, told TODAY.com. “In Texas, sauce isn't a primary ingredient when we're dealing with beef … you get your badge of honor by squirts of grease from bites of sausage just as easy as you do from drippings of barbecue sauce."
Mueller has been around the game long enough to know. He started cooking brisket in the pit at 8 years old, the third generation of a family that has operated the same barbecue restaurant since 1948.
While he doesn’t offer his customers bibs, patrons in the know will toss their tie over their shoulder to keep it out of the way. And Romney, he says, had the right idea with his outfit. “I think wearing a white shirt is the best because it displays your grease awards a little better. It's easier to see them.”
Mueller said he’s happy to know Romney was proudly eating barbecue, as it brings more awareness to the cuisine. And Romney’s saucy stains might just get him some new fans.
As Mueller describes it, barbecuing is about “taking the lowest cut, the hardest, toughest piece of meat you can find, and trying to do some voodoo on it and trying to make it succulent.”
It’s no easy task, but, he says, “You can't eat barbecue without wearing it as well.”
Now it's your turn! Are you covered in sauce and grease? Sporting a bib or just throwing your tie back Texas-style? We want to see your messy barbecue photos. Send them in below, and we'll feature the best ones on TODAY.com!
More from TODAY Food: