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Barbecue : The history of an American institution

Monday, 2 January 2012 22:29 by nico
I love reading about barbecue, but sometimes I would like to read something else than recipes and reviews. Being an history addict and enjoying reading history books, this book instantly attracted my attention because there are few books that tale the history of barbecue… and barbecue sauce. The story begins in the early 18th century, when English colonists started cooking meat above a wood fire, inspired by the Native Americans. Barbecue started spreading from Virginia to the Carolina’s, mostly happening at political meetings and stump speeches. A pit filled with hot coals was dung in the ground and the meat was held above the fire on wood sticks or metal rods.  The spreading of barbecue through the United States is strongly bound to the Civil War, the Gold Rush and the abolition of slavery. The book depicts the first pitmasters and how regionalization of barbecue appeared, when the first BBQ joints opened at the beginning of the 20th century. Around WW2, drive-ins and barbecue joints emerged along Interstate highways and barbecue quickly found his way in the backyard. Then it was slowly distanced by hamburger franchises like McDonald’s until the mid-70s. The rebirth of barbecue is mainly due to the first published guidebooks and the first BBQ competitions. Of course, the history and evolution of barbecue sauce is also part of the book: From the 17th to the 19th century, barbecue sauce was mainly made of butter, vinegar, pepper and salt and used to mop the meat while cooking to keep it moist. The first barbecue cook books published in the 20s progressively feature sweeter and even sweeter barbecue sauces. Regional sauces also appear around that period, together with the regionalization of barbecue. Barbecue sauce became a mass-market product when Heinz (in the 40s) and Kraft (in the 60s) started commercializing thick and sweet barbecue sauce. As fuel used for backyard barbecue evolved from wood, to charcoal and finally gas and electric cookers, smoke flavor was added to barbecue sauce. Nowadays, due to the explosion of varieties, the regional distinctions in barbecue sauce are beginning to fade. The book also tales the story of famous BBQ restaurants like Arthur Bryant’s, Stamey’s,… and the story of Weber-Stephen, Kingsford lump charcoal and KC Masterpiece as well. If you wanna know more about the history of barbecue and the history of the United States, you should really read this book ! Buy it on Amazon
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