I am offering you three versions now of the origin:
Here is The First Version:
First of all, the word barbeque is misused. When you cook steaks, hot dogs and hamburgers (and whatever else you want) on the grill, well hello…..guess what? That is called Grilling!
Cooking meat over an open fire has been around since the cave man. But the cave man didn’t BBQ. Why? Because he had no sauce. LOL! Actually, as far as we know, the cave men just grilled over an open fire.
So just what is barbequing? Now pay attention. It will probably end up being a question on “Jeopardy” someday! <wink>
To barbeque (going to use BBQ from now on since it’s so hard to type) is slow-cooking meat at a low temperature for a long time over wood or charcoal. Not gas! Although, most of us without a discerning culinary palette (like me) don’t know the difference.
BBQ began in the late 1800’s during cattle drives out West. The men had to be fed (cowboys) and the boss (cattle baron) didn’t want to feed them the good meat. So, other disposable cuts were used to feed the men. The main choice for this was Brisket, which is a very tough, stringy piece of meat. However, the cowboys learnt that if you left this brisket to cook for a long period of time (5-7 hours) at approximately 200 degrees (although I don’t know how they knew the temperature over a fire?) that wha-la! A super yummie meal was to be had. Besides Brisket, other meats that they found to BBQ well, were pork butt, pork ribs, beef ribs, venison and goat.
The basic BBQ grill is a cooking chamber with an offset firebox or a water smoker. The average Kmart gas grill is not for BBQ, but for grilling. Today BBQ is a hobby — or passion with some — and enjoyed by millions of Americans each year. I guess it’s one of the things we as Americans can claim as “authentic” and part of our culture and not a cooking style that has been brought from another country.
To BBQ is to truly cook American (although its original origin debatable and argued to not come from America at all.)
You know what they say? “When in Rome…do as the Romans.” This can apply to BBQ also. Different areas of the country have different meat priorities and preparations. For example, in the Southeast, pork is the preferred meat to BBQ. Digging a pit (to concentrate cooking heat and smoke) goes back to European culture. Then it was forgotten until the Jamestown colonists arrived. Since pigs were running around freely to fatten themselves up, (only to be captured and eaten later) pork became the sustenance meat of Virginia and later the southern states. This also was a blessing when crops didn’t produce as they should for whatever reasons.
Texas seems to love beef barbeque, which seems logical due to all the cattle in the region.
And, it’s my own personal experience that the West coast, especially Californians, seem to love chicken or seafood to BBQ. When I lived in California, I know the popular beach BBQ was to let swordfish marinate in a dish filled with a teriyaki mixture overnight and then BBQ the next day. In Santa Barbara, on the 4th of July, it’s a traditional custom to go dig a pit on the beach to party in and BBQ in.
Below I have some traditional BBQ recipes. But, the sauce is what seems to define a BBQ chef or restaurant. In the South they seem to like thinner BBQ sauces, with a more vinegary tone. Other parts of the US prefer the thick, sweet, tomato BBQ sauce. But in Texas they season their beef with a dry-rub mixture of seasonings.
There are even quirky BBQ’s in some restaurants or areas of the United States. In the early 1900’s, New Yorkers loved turtle BBQ. I think that got replaced by New York pizza or cheesecake? I recall vacationing in Wyoming a few years back and coming across a restaurant that offered BBQ Buffalo meat. (BTW I tried it and it was delicious!)
There is also some argument that clambakes are nothing but a spin-off of traditional BBQs because they are cooked in a pit. Others claim that the BBQ idea evolved from the fisherman’s clambakes. So which came first, the BBQ or the clambake?
It’s undeniable that BBQ is popular and well-loved in American society. But, BBQ tastes and cooking differ. Real BBQ purists claim that a restaurant that offers its customers a grilled piece of meat slapped with some sauce later isn’t eating real BBQ at all. Others say it is, as long as the sauce is there, then it’s BBQ!
Every year the Kansas City Barbecue Society (KCBS) sponsors barbecue competitions all over the US. The biggest one of all is the American Royal (sounds like a rodeo huh?) held every October at guess where? Yup, Kansas City. I’ve never attended, but rumor has it that you can’t find a steak, hot dog or hamburger there. Nope, it’s nothing but real cuts of meat. And, I will assume shrimp, buffalo, turtle, snake, venison, elk, etc?
(Information source for the above information on BBQ is from posts I read on the American Cooking Bulletin Board and my own personal experiences.)
Read The Second and Third Versions