The Sheep Stew of Dundas: A Gastronomical Delight
This documentary was edited as part of the Southern Stews documentary project from archival footage in the Woodward Studio collection. It was made possible when the people of the small village of Dundas, VA learned of the Southern Stews project and that there was enough material to edit the story of their proud stewmaking tradition - one that lies just over the county line from Brunswick County in the very region where the first Brunswick stew is said to have been prepared and named in 1828. Only this county is Lunenburg, and the village is Dundas, VA, and in between the three buildings in "downtown" Dundas stands a sign that reads - "Welcome to Dundas - Home of the World's Best Sheep Stew - A gastronomical delight". It stands next to the Dundas Ruritan Club stew shed where the "gastronomic delight" is only cooked twice a year in four 100 gallon black pots to help raise money for Ruritan community service projects. This arduous, 12 hour cooking of culled sheep in four 80 gallon cast iron pots requires five shifts and as many as 20 men. And when the recipe is compared to the first Brunswick stew recipe, it is more true to the original recipe of 1828 than the current version of Brunswick stew cooked by stewmasters throughout Brunswick county VA - only the squirrel in the original recipe has been replaced by sheep. All else remains the same.
This journey in search of the story of Dundas Sheep Stew and its preparation is poignant as we learn how fragile the tradition is; and it is filled at every turn with good humor and the extraordinary warmth of the people of Dundas. This documentary provides an unusual view back into the ways of our rural farm folk who took occasional breaks from the gruelling work of farming to come together around the cooking of a locally concocted stew, to enjoy fun and fellowship; and for the stewmaster and stew crews, a sip of whiskey here and there, some good-natured leg-pulling, and the comradery of a rural farm culture that occured around the stew-pot - not to mention the good eatin' that followed.
The citizens of Dundas raised $2,500 through a rummage sale, a raffle, and the cooking of a special sheep stew to enable the editing of this documentary to occur during the editing of Southern Stews.