Photo credit: Michael Severens, principal cellist, Guanajuato Symphony Orchestra
Memorial Day approaches and thoughts of outdoor dining abound. At the heart of American outdoor cooking, sits the Weber grill and barbecue with it’s myriad connotations and associations.
The history of barbecue itself is fascinating. The word comes from the indigenous Arawak people of the Caribean, who set a frame of sticks over an open fire as a quick and easy way to prepare food. Hasty preparation was useful because, as my friend Derryck from the Virgin Islands was fond of pointing out, the Caribe Indians would frequently show up for lunch.
“We were just hanging out over there and thought we’d come over for lunch.”
“Great!” the Arawaks would say. “What’s for lunch?”
The Spanish adopted the word as barbecoa and as the American middle class rose in the 1950’s, along with tiki torches and Hawaiian shirts, they adopted the outdoor grill as the key to summer cookouts.
Barbecue seems the one style of cooking that never goes out of style. It differs vastly by region, from Texas pit barbecue, to the delicous mustard base sauces originating in South Carolina, and the incredible contributions of black Americans to the cuisine. I found this gorgeous little tidbit over at Barbecue Bible. The whole article is worth a read but this reads like poetry.
“Night before the barbecues, I used to stay up all night cooking and basting the meats with barbecue sauce. It was made of vinegar, black and red pepper, salt, butter, a little sage, coriander, basil, onion, and garlic. Some folks drop a little sugar in it. On a long pronged stick, I wrapped a soft rag or cotton for a swab, and all night long, I swabbed the meat until it dripped into the fire. The drippings changed the smoke into seasoned fumes that smoked the meat. We turned the meat over and swabbed it that way all night long until it oozed seasoning and was baked all through.”
“Thus recalled a former enslaved African American whose narrative was recorded by the WPA (Work Projects Administration) in the 1930s—a collection of 2,300 first person accounts of slavery. He spoke of an art inextricably interwoven with American cuisine—since our country’s founding and long before—an art every bit as near and dear to our hearts today: barbecue.”
Barbecue is more American than hot dogs and hamburgers, though they taste pretty good off the grill as well.
We frequently get asked the question “What pairs with barbecue?” The first answer is always “Beer,” and I think that’s a perfectly reasonable answer. Really, the question is, what are you grilling, and how are you doing to it?
In honor of the kick-off to the American summer, we’re going to give you some ideas about things to pair with your Memorial Day grilling extravaganza.