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Webster's defines barbecue as "meat broiled or roasted over an open fire." ( How many errors can you find in that sentence?) He apparently followed the English (bless their pallid palates) lead. Alexander Pope, in Second Satire of the Second Book of Homer, ca 1735. wrote".., send me, Gods! A whole pig barbecued!" He later defined barbecue as "A West Indian term of gluttony, a hog roasted whole, stuffed with spices and basted with Madeira wine." Pope should have heeded his own advice: "A little learning is a dangerous thing..."
As to the origin of the word, only Mencken is half right. I recently had the good fortune to correspond with Peter Guanikeyu Torres, President and Council Chief of the Taino Indigenous Nation of the Caribbean and Florida. He not only assured me that the Taino were alive and well, but also translated "barbecue" from Taino language as follows:
Ba from Baba (father)
Ra from Yara (place)
Bi from Bibi (beginning)
Cu from Guacu (the sacred fire)
Or "the beginning of the sacred fire father."
He further explained that "Taino barabicoa" means "the stick stand with four legs and many sticks of wood on top to place the cooking meat." He advised that "Taino Barabicu" means "the sacred fire pit." According to Chief Peter the Timucua, Guacara and Calusa tribes of the Southeastern United States were Taino who had migrated from the Caribbean with their culture.
Paintings by Jacques le Moyne, in 1564-65, depicted Timucuans roasting game and fish on a rack of wood illustrate, according to Chief Guanikeyu, the Taino barabicu. The chief agrees with me that the meat was being roasted, rather than barbecued.
Fact is, I find no more similarity to real barbecuing in the method of the Taino and the cast-off boucaneers than that of Achilles when he and his friends, Patroclus and Automedon entertained Ulysses and Ajax on the beach at Illium.
"Patroclus did as his comrade bade him; he set the chopping block in front of the fire and on it he laid the loin of a sheep, the loin also of a goat and the chine of a fat hog. Automedon held the meat while Achilles chopped it; he sliced the pieces and put them on spits while the son of Monoetius made the fire burn high. When the flame had died down, he spread the embers, laid the spits on top of them, lifting them up and setting them upon the spit racks; he sprinkled them with salt. When the meat was roasted, he set in on platters and handed bread round the table in fair baskets, while Achilles dealt them their portions." Iliad, Homer, Book IX, Lines 205-224
Paintings and illustrations made in the Southeast between 1564 and 1585 show Native Americans, from Florida to Virginia, cooking all manner of meat upon racks of wood. Indians were still in North Carolina when Byrd made his journey. He even recorded that one of his party had a nightmare in which he feared that the Indians would "barbecue" him.
The French claim "de barbe et queue," very loosely translated as "from beard to tail" is flagrantly fatuous franco-poop. If Catherine de Medici had not sent for her Florentine chefs when she became queen of France, the French would probably still be groveling for gruel.
In any case, none of this has anything to do with barbecue. Barbecue is not roasted.
A hole in the ground containing wood coals over which a grill or rack to hold meat is placed for barbecuing. A brick or masonry construction for containing coals over which meat is cooked on a grate or rack. A large, portable metal construction for the same purpose.
Baste, Basting Sauce
Along with low temperature, the real secret of barbecue. The proper basting sauce flavors and tender the meat while keeping the exterior moist while the inside cooks. Basting sauces should be built to fit the meat. Meat without fat interspersed requires oil in the basting sauce. Fat pork, etc., doesn't need any additional oil. Likewise, the seasoning should fit the meat. A young lamb should be seasoned more delicately than an old beef.
A tough piece of meat from the front of a cow's chest best used as corned beef. This started out as a Texan joke on tenderfeet Easterners and it backfired on them. They had planned to ship out the tough cuts along with the noxious weed, mesquite, and save the tender steaks and roasts for themselves. They hawked it so highly that folk expected to see it cooked when they went to Texas. Therefore, Texans had to start cooking and eating it. Brisket costs more than sirloin tip roast, is tougher, less tasty and loaded with fat. For the same amount of time, less money and less bother, you can have a good piece of meat.
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Smoky's 5th basic position for really great barbecue'n.
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