As you enjoy Independence Day, give a little thought to one of the United States of America’s unique contributions to world cuisine; consider the E Pluribus Unum of Bar-B-Q.
Whether you call it Bar-B-Q, BBQ, or Barbecue, the July 4th tradition of outdoor cooking is another variation on that national theme. Andrew Breitbart often talked about his love for the America motto of ‘From Many, One’. His brand of conservatism – like the company he founded – honored independent individuals with a diversity of backgrounds and beliefs, yet united by a common purpose.
When I was traveling around the southern U.S. working on the story of the fraud behind the Pigford Black Farmers settlement, one of the added benefits was that I was able to pursue my longtime passion for ‘cue. One of the great joys of being a BBQ aficionado is sampling the different regional variants, from Memphis dry rub ribs to Texas brisket to North Carolina’s different versions, including the unique vinegar sauce based pulled pork that I love.
What I saw in 21st century American BBQ restaurants was the same American anti-elitist mix of race and class that’s been part of the cuisine’s long tradition. As the essay The Eyntomology of Barbecue says:
In the nineteenth century, barbecue was a feature at church picnics and political rallies as well as at private parties. A barbecue was a popular and relatively inexpensive way to lobby for votes, and the organizers of political rallies would provide barbecue, lemonade, and usually a bit of whiske. These gatherings were also an easy way for different classes to mix. Barbecue was not a class- specific food, and large groups of people from every stratum could mix to eat, drink and listen to stump speeches. Journalist Jonathan Daniels, writing in the mid-twentieth century, maintained that “Barbecue is the dish which binds together the taste of both the people of the big house and the poorest occupants of the back end of the broken-down barn”
The melting pot of American BBQ brings together African cooking traditions, the sausage making skills Czech and German immigrants brought to Texas, the ‘barbacoa’ pig roasting technique from the West Indies, and the English use of vinegar on meats. It’s recipes passed down through generations and an entrepreneurial tradition of starting a roadside shack that brings in hungry folks from miles around.
BBQ is America on a plate. Here’s hoping you had a great day.