The History of Barbecuing Barbecuing is a global phenomenon but where did it all begin..? Woah Cowboy! Some say barbecues really began in the late 1800s when the Wild West’s cowboys chowed down on rough cuts of meat while on cattle drives. Cuts so tough that only a considerable amount of tenderizing would allow for the meat to be chewed and swallowed successfully. Chewy, tough briskets would take more than five hours to tenderize - a pretty long time for any dusty cowboy to wait for his well-earned supper. But, while the cowboys certainly enjoyed their slow-cooked meats, barbecues go way back before the time of swinging saloon doors and the OK Coral. So far back in fact, that it can’t have been long after rubbing a couple of sticks together and being faced with their first flames, that our ancestors discovered the joy of cooking meat on an open fire. Back to Barabicu The origin of the word barbecue - or barbeque, BBQ, Barbie, or braiia as it’s known in South Africa – is not set in stone. But, the common consensus is that the word originates from ‘barabicu’, meaning ‘sacred fire pit’. This word was used by the Taino people of the Caribbean and the Native American Timucua of Florida. This sacred fire pit was a hole in the ground covered with leaves, in which the people would put their meat, set it alight and slow cook it. Another suggestion for the origin of the word ‘barbecue’ was that it derived from the French barbe à queue, meaning beard to tail, after French visitors to the Caribbean saw a whole pig being roasted. This is now considered highly unlikely and simply a case of words sounding alike. Pig Roasts and the Southern States Whatever the exact origins of the word, one thing is for sure, BBQs became big business, or should that be pig business? This was due in part to the pigs in the southern states of North America. These pigs were a readily available food and were low maintenance, but were semi-wild and their meat was much tougher than our modern day, reared hogs. Barbecuing was a way of cooking the pigs and getting the most from the meat. With stringy pigs to be eaten, barbecues soon became the preferred way of feeding a large group of people and locals would gather together to eat the pigs. In the mid 1800s plantation owners would hold large barbecues and in the nineteenth century, barbecues became popular at political rallies and church picnics, as well as at private parties. There was no denying it - the Southern States loved their BBQs… and still do. As does the rest of the USA.
The World Wide BBQ Despite being the epicentre of the barbecue, the USA doesn’t hold the monopoly. Citizens around the world enjoy feasting on food cooked over the heat of a fire. And many of these citizens will lay claim that it was their ancestors who invented the barbecue. Though in truth, anyone with access to fire can claim it for themselves. Barbecues are a long and proud tradition. In Argentina the ‘gauchos’ who work the cattle on the Pampa plains eat asados - grilled meats - in the open air. In Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, barbecues are known as asados after these meat staples. In Greece, barbecues play an important role during the annual Easter celebrations with spit roast lamb taking centre stage. Some are put on modern motorized rotisseries but others are turned by hand for hours. Family and friends are called on to take turns winding the arm and the barbecue is the centerpiece for a wonderful party. The Australians love their barbies so much that free or coin operated barbecues are available in many of their city parks – which means they can, and they do, throw another prawn on the barbie. All the President’s Burgers But, while we can all lay claim to the barbecue to a certain extent, there are few people who can say they’ve seen their president or prime minister getting to grips with a chicken wing or pork sausage. Unlike the Americans. Barbeques have been a White House tradition for years. It was Lyndon B Johnson who first threw a BBQ there, dishing up barbecues ribs. In the 1970s Jimmy Carter and his wife gave a ‘pig pickin’ for 500 guests including many foreign dignitaries, many of whom probably didn’t know their ribs from their sausages. And ex cowboy actor and later president Ronald Reagan often invited guests to his ranch for a barbecue feast. George H Bush loved to hold an annual barbecue for the Members of Congress and his son, George W Bush, continued the tradition when he later became president. This traditional BBQ was halted on September 12 2001, the day after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon. The barbecue was cancelled and the White House gave the 700 pounds of beef tenderloin that had been bought for the event to the hundreds of rescue workers who had come to Washington to help.