The history of barbecuing dates to pre-Civil War years, when the pig was a very convenient food staple in the South. Unlike cattle, pigs were for the most part low maintenance, could be turned out to fend for themselves, then caught later to barbecue when the hungry hordes came home from battle. While those early, (semi-wild) pigs were certainly tougher and required more preparation than a modern-day pig, they began a tradition for BBQ recipes that continues to be refined, even today.
While pigs didn’t have anything to do with did or didn’t win the war, they were usually slaughtered and barbecued in time for celebrations, and often the entire neighborhood would gather for the event. It’s only natural a little bit of competition would intervene, (BBQ recipes) to see who’s pig would taste the best. This caused a lot of strange, unusual, and flavorful BBQ recipes began to be created.
DEFINITION OF THE WORD BARBECUE: While there are multiple opinions concerning the origin of the word, depending on which publication (or tall tale) you listen to. It’s likely the word barbecue derives from the West Indian term “barbacoa,” denoting a method of slow-cooking meat over hot coals.
Of course barbecuing is a term applied to how meat is cooked, whether that meat comes from a pig or a cow, and the cooks of the old West were known to slow cook sides of beef to feed hungry trail crews. Whether these sides of beef were slow cooked because of toughness or to experiment with a special secret sauce, is lost to sands of time. Either way barbecuing and BBQ recipes have been a mainstay of America history.
Speaking of history, barbecuing was known to be featured at political rallies and church picnics in the early 1900s, since this was an ideal way to bring people to a political speech, or gather the sinners for a Sunday session at the local church. Barbecuing was relatively inexpensive, allowed the local women to bring their favorite BBQ recipes, and often they’d have contests to see whose recipe was the best.
There are quotes from early journalists saying barbecues were a way to bring people together, no matter their class distinction or economic level. Of course any time something becomes popular, especially in America, the entrepreneurs flock to see how something can be monetized, it was no different with BBQ recipes and restaurants began sprouting (especially in the south), each featuring its own special BBQ recipe.
The restaurants of those days would be far different than the BBQ specializing restaurant of today. Most of these BBQ restaurants of yesteryear, evolved from simple backyard barbecue pits, were often open only on weekends, then charged a competitive price for a full plate of barbecued pig.
Because the BBQ recipes have grown into big business over the years, it’s interesting to look back in history and realize the genesis began when one person (probably an old trail hand) decided they weren’t about to share their secret BBQ recipe with anyone but family and friends.
As America grew, so did the barbecue restaurants, with people traveling across town, often across country in order to visit that special restaurant, the one everyone talks about, “If you’re in Memphis, you’ve got to try the barbecue at the Rendezvous”.
Barbecue is as much a part culture today, as it was in those long ago days of the old West, with the best BBQ recipes still being guarded like gold.
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