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The History and Mystery of BBQ
By Fran Black

The mystery of barbecue begins with the name. Taino, the word for the wooden structure, sounded to the explorers like barbacoa. Barbecue primarily refers to food that is cooked in an outdoor environment by way of smoke, charcoal or gas. Slow cook barbecues refer to cooking using indirect heat or smoke.

The history of barbecue sauce goes back to the 1600s, the century that marked the founding of America's first colonies. The varied history of barbecue reflects the varied history of the South. The origins of barbecue in the South, however, are traceable to a period long before the smiling pig became a fixture on Southern roadsides. It was the first time the smell of barbecue wafted over the Mid-South. Sometimes shameful, but usually interesting, the history of barbecue can be seen an emblem of Southern history.

During the early years of this country, barbecues were the foundation of many major political, social, and religious events. Political and church barbecues were among the first examples of this phenomenon. In the nineteenth century, barbecue was a feature at church picnics and political rallies as well as at private parties (Egerton 150). A good barbecue drew (and draws) barbecue fans of every color and class. A barbecue was a popular and inexpensive way to lobby for votes and an easy way for different social classes to mix.

As the twentieth century progressed, barbecue pits grew and prospered, evolving into three distinct types. A Kentucky barbecue is served with one of three sauces:a mild tomato-based sauce, a unique "black" sauce, or a peppery hot sauce. A Memphis-style barbecue sauce embraces all three of the major ingredients vinegar, mustard, and tomato.

Barbecue sauces have all the diversity of the land that perfected the art and science of barbecuing. Nationally known brands such as Kraft came into the barbecue sauce retailing picture in the mid-1900s and have dominated ever since. KC's barbecue style is thick, with a tomato and sugar base.

Usually, these restaurants grew out of a simple barbecue pit where the owner sold barbecue to take away. To the purists, this is the only true barbecue; direct heat methods are merely grilling. Then, they would suspend their meat above the makeshift barbecue cooker. Nowadays, barbecue cookers are built out of metal and constructed in a manner to allow smoke and heat to envelop the sizzling food. Some barbecue grills are built with the firebox positioned below the main barbecue chamber. Wood is carefully rested within a firebox next to the barbecue cooking chamber.

About the Author

Francesca Black enjoys bbq and manages content at BBQ Shop and Gourmet Living

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