Few dishes are more American than a big ole pile of meat (and the bigger the better of course). When it comes to preparing this delicacy, barbecue is about as patriotic as it comes. After all, what is Fourth of July without fireworks and a barbecue?But sadly, America cannot claim the founding of this style of cooking. The history of barbecue goes back before America even existed.
The Spanish Trip to the Caribbean
Historians attribute the first discovery of barbecue to the landing of the Spanish in the Caribbean. They watched as the natives set up a wooden platform and cooked the meat slowly and indirectly over the flame. The explorers then dubbed the practice "barbacoa". These explorers then continued their journey on to the north, bringing along this newfangled way of cooking with them.
When Barbecue Meets the South
As the explorers traveled, they shared this new method of cooking with those they met. Over time, barbecue got adopted throughout the colonies. The South readily adopted this form of cooking and it became an ingrained part of the culture by the 19th century. The colonists tweaked the method and became the first to add sauce to the meat while it cooked.The South was well-suited for barbecue for two reasons. First, the abundance of the cheap to raise pigs and ease of growing corn made it easy to cook a well-rounded (and delicious) meal of barbecued pork and corn bread. Second, the social structure of the south created an opening for barbecue. In the South, large social events like church festivals and neighborhood picnics were common. Also common? The large group of people becoming hungry part way into the event. Barbecue allowed the host (or hosts) to whip up a large batch of food without needing to create several different meals (as is the case with a potluck).
Over the years, unique styles began cropping up in the different regions.
- Memphis: pulled pork shoulder with a tomato-based sauce
- North Carolina: entire pig with a vinegar-based sauce
- Kansas city: ribs with a dry rub
- Texans: beef
Be careful when saying Texan barbecue is true barbecue though. Die hard barbecue purists claim that true barbecue can only be made with pork.
Barbecue and the African American Community
One advantage of barbecue is you could pair a delicious sauce with a cheap cut of meat and still enjoy a fine meal. Decent barbecue was cheap as long as you paired the meat with a great sauce. Many Southern African-Americans living in poverty made barbecue a cornerstone of their diet. When many of them moved to the North in the 20th century, they brought this cooking style with them. Fast forward to the 1950s where most cities enjoyed barbecue restaurants owned by African Americans.
Barbecue Around the World
A cooking style this good was bound to go global. Many countries over the years developed their own style.
- Korean barbecue: thin beef or pork slices served with rice
- Argentinian barbecue: known as asado, involves a smokeless pit and marinade-free meat
- Mongolian barbecue: actually a misnomer, it is not barbecue but a stir fry. And it is not Mongolian but actually, from Taiwan
Barbecue is a beloved tradition of slow cooking meat. Rivalries have been fought tooth and nail over whose family can claim the superior sauce recipe. Holidays have been celebrated with some of the finest prepared meat known to man. Barbecue is a richly held tradition in the United States.For those wanting an experience to go along with their pile of meat, you can book a trip solely based on barbecue. The North Carolina Barbecue Society takes visitors on a history BBQ trail. While visiting 24 historic barbecue pits, guests are able to experience different methods and cooking styles. Along the way, you can sample mouth-watering samples served "by some of the nicest people one could ever hope to meet"