Why do we love barbecue
June 25, 2012
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As far as popular human activities go, roasting animals over outdoor fires is right up there with sex and fighting. Every culture has some version of the pursuit — from the Argentinean asado to the traditional Hawaiian luau. Rituals and traditions swirl around grilling, from the profound (ancient Hawaiians roasted the pig as an offering to the gods) to the prosaic (Dad’s famous beer-based barbecue sauce). The word “barbecue” was introduced to the American colonies from Haiti and originally referred to the grilling rack, and then to the meat itself. By 1733 it also denoted a social gathering that revolved around roasting an animal. By 1931, Northerners and Westerners would be using the word to describe any outdoor event involving meat and coals. (Incidentally, the word “asado” has a similar dual meaning in South America, where it used to describe a grilling technique and a social function.)
Whatever your linguistic interpretation, Americans were barbecue enthusiasts from Day One. George Washington, a notoriously terse diarist, actually recorded all the barbecues he attended or hosted. For example, the entire entry for August 4, 1769, reads: “Dined at the Barbicue with a great deal of other Company and stayd there till Sunset.” My favorite is another one-liner: “Went in to Alexandria to a Barbecue and stayed all Night.” As our first president, he was also responsible for our first presidential barbecue.
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