It’s no wonder there’s so little agreement on the subject of barbecue. You can’t even get everybody to similarly spell the word. I’ve seen signs that read “barbecue,” “barbeque,” “Bar-B-Q,” and ones that simply used the acronym “BBQ,” which I’m pretty sure stands for “burnt beyond question.”
In Texas, where I’m from, we smoke and baste everything from pork to pizza. Our motto is: If it can’t be smothered in hickory sauce, it ain’t worth eating. We barbecue grill our beef and chicken, potatoes and corn, and anything else that wanders too close to the outdoor cooker.
We like to think that we invented this process, though many claim otherwise. Seeing as how those folks aren’t from Texas, though, we simply ignore them.
Northerners get confused about barbecue because they’re partial to ketchup. They fail to understand that ketchup is just a base ingredient. Not until you add a little bit of onion, bell pepper, beer, molasses, beer, Worcestershire sauce, beer, mesquite or hickory flavorings and beer to this tomato product does it reach its full potential.
The origins of barbecue have long been disputed. Everyone from Native American Indians to East Coast Early Colonists has received credit for developing this cooking method. Truth be told, the responsible party was probably a bored caveman who’d grown tired of eating the same old charbroiled mastodon every night.
To barbecue meats correctly, you must first sear the cuts at high temperatures—preferably somewhere near the flashpoint at which sand turns to glass. Then reduce the heat and slow-cook at about 250 degrees, for ever.
If you smoke or roast anything long enough it will eventually become tender. Even armadillo. But who wants to eat a creature that can only be hunted in the dark, with an automobile? I don’t recommend getting that creative.
Barbecue is one of those terms that can be either a noun or a verb. It is both the process and the end product of slow-cooking and smoking meats. (Beware: The Surgeon General has warned that inhaling too much pork smoke may lead to a pot belly.)
I’m pretty sure the reason barbecuing caught on during The Frontier Days was because it met two critical needs. First, the men knew where their women were during hog-killing time (in the kitchen or smokehouse, barbecuing pork). And second, when the outdoor temperatures spiraled and threatened to turn the meat into buzzard bait, barbecue sauce covered up the taste. So when company said, “Mm-mm-mm. This barbecue sure is good. When did you slaughter this pig?” the cook could just smile and honestly reply, “Oh, the secret’s in the sauce.”
Today, nearly every southern family reunion includes barbecued meats of some kind. That’s because barbecue has been scientifically proven to reduce infighting. It’s next to impossible to argue with a spare rib dangling from your lips. And you can’t point fingers when you’re busy licking them clean.
No matter how you spell it, barbecue has its benefits.