Barbecue is as American as apple pie but where did it come from? The etymology of the term is vague, but the most plausible theory states that the word “barbecue” is a derivative of the West Indian term “barbacoa,” which denotes a method of slow-cooking meat over hot coals. Bon Appetite magazine blithely informs its readers that the word comes from an extinct tribe in Guyana who enjoyed “cheerfully spit roasting captured enemies.” The Oxford English Dictionary traces the word back to Haiti, and others claim (somewhat implausibly) that “barbecue” actually comes from the French phrase “barbe a queue”, meaning “from head to tail.” Proponents of this theory point to the whole-hog cooking method espoused by some barbecue chefs. Tar Heel magazine posits that the word “barbecue” comes from a nineteenth century advertisement for a combination whiskey bar, beer hall, pool establishment and purveyor of roast pig, known as the BAR-BEER-CUE-PIG. The most convincing explanation is that the method of roasting meat over powdery coals was picked up from indigenous peoples in the colonial period, and that “barbacoa” became “barbecue” in the lexicon of early settlers.
The history of barbecue itself, aside from its murky etymological origins, is clearer. For several reasons, the pig became an omnipresent food staple in the South. Pigs were a low-maintenance and convenient food source for Southerners. In the pre-Civil War period, Southerners ate, on average, five pounds of pork for every one pound of beef. Pigs could be put out to root in the forest and caught when food supply became low. These semi-wild pigs were tougher and stringier than modern hogs, but were a convenient and popular food source. Every part of the pig was utilized– the meat was either eaten immediately or cured for later consumption, and the ears, organs and other parts were transformed into edible delicacies. Pig slaughtering became a time for celebration, and the neighborhood would be invited to share in the largess. The traditional Southern barbecue grew out of these gatherings.
According to the Smithsonian Magazine, the culinary tradition of cooking meat low and slow over indirect flame (the true definition of barbecue – impostors who grill, take note) is more popular than ever. Contributing Editor Troy Black of the Big Book of BBQ explains the difference between barbecue and grilling. Barbecue is cooking long, low, and slow. Grilling is hot and fast. With barbecue, traditionally, you have meats such as ribs, pork shoulder, brisket. They have to cook a very long time to tenderize, at a very low temperature. Grilling, on the other hand, is cooking pieces of meat hot and fast, like boneless breast of chicken, your hamburgers, your steaks, and your seafood. That is grilling, not barbecue.
This method of cooking has become so prevalent over the years that BBQ itself represents a sort of pop culture spawning TV shows, historically-focused road trips, and even fusion dishes like BBQ tacos. Barbecue’s ability to reflect whatever might be hot at the time (from reality TV to the taco craze) isn’t new; in fact, barbecue has a long history of permeation, perhaps best experienced by the ongoing barbecue feud that plagues the South. From the Atlantic to the Gulf, bordered by the western outposts of Texas and Kansas City, the area of the United States known as the “barbecue belt” houses four distinct barbecue traditions – Carolina, Texas, Memphis and Kansas City. From where did these traditions come, and how, in a relatively small region of the country, have they evolved along such different paths? The history of American barbecue is as diverse as the variations themselves, charting the path of a Caribbean cooking style brought north by Spanish conquistadors, moved westward by settlers, and seasoned with the flavors of European cultures.
At Life with Moxie we are all about the Maya Angelou mantra “when you know better, you do better.” Our weekly radio show and Life with Moxie column regularly speaks to how certain foods are powerful healing agents while others do nothing but fuel disease. This week’s column is a great example of how we can combine our love of really delicious food, with nutrition density well beyond most people’s daily intake, weekly for some! Here is a mouthwatering take on what is considered a classic BBQ. A master menu of complimentary dishes that won’t exhaust the host is the key to any successful dinner party. Here I’ve provided some of my personal favorites that time and time again have proven themselves worthy.
Okra and Olives
Make two days ahead of time.
Okra is a wonderful summer food. If you’ve experienced it before, it was most likely cooked, like stewed tomatoes with okra, or fried. Unfortunately, when you cook okra, the insides get a really slimy texture, and it loses significant flavor. This uses fresh okra, which is very crispy and flavorful, light and fresh. I came across this combo decades ago and it has remained a staple of summer so long as the okra is in season. Keep in mind this is a finger food mix, exact measure is hardly necessary…
2 7-oz jars Kalamata olives
7 cups fresh okra (roughly) cleaned, leave whole
Lemon zest of three large organic lemons
1 1/4 cups fresh organic lemon juice (about 7 lemons)
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 large cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon Himalayan salt (I sometimes use herbed grey salt- wonderful!)
Combine all ingredients in a very large zip-top plastic bag (gallon size), and seal. Refrigerate at least two days turning bag several times a day. Serve chilled. Great for picnics, lunch box, pot luck dinners. I keep this on hand all summer.
Recipe Courtesy of Life With Moxie Cookbook
8 cups strong bread flour
2 1/2 cups tepid water
3/4 oz of dried yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
1 level tablespoon fine sea salt
flour for dusting
Stage 1: Make a well. Pile the flour on to a clean surface and make a large well in the center. Pour half your water into the well, then add your yeast, sugar and salt and stir with a fork.
Stage 2: Getting it together. Slowly, but confidently, bring in the flour from the inside of the well. (You don’t want to break the walls of the well, or the water will go everywhere.) Continue to bring the flour in to the centre until you get a stodgy, porridgelike consistency – then add the remaining water. Continue to mix until it’s stodgy again, then you can be more aggressive, bringing in all the flour, making the mix less sticky. Flour your hands and pat and push the dough together with all the remaining flour. (Certain flours need a little more or less water, so feel free to adjust.)
Stage 3: Kneading! This is where you get stuck in. With a bit of elbow grease, simply push, fold, slap and roll the dough around, over and over, for four or five minutes until you have a silky and elastic dough.
Stage 4: Prove. Flour the top of your dough. Put it in a bowl, cover with cling film, and allow it to prove for about half an hour until doubled in size – ideally in a warm, moist, draft-free place. This will improve the flavor and texture of your dough and it’s always exciting to know that the old yeast has kicked into action.
After the dough has doubled in size, you need to knock the air out of it by bashing it around for a minute. Now it’s ready to be transformed into pizzas or flatbreads.
Tear off chunks of the dough and roll out your bread, shaping into slightly irregular oval shape rounds, about 0.5 cm thick. Oil the grill on the grill, then lay the flatbreads on top of the grill and cook them for about three minutes. Turn them over and cook for another three minutes until they are golden brown, crispy and slightly charred – this’ll give them a real barbecued flavor. Take the flatbreads off the grill. Mix a couple of splashes of olive oil with the rosemary leaves and brush (or drizzle) over the hot breads. Sprinkle with salt and serve straight away while still warm.
Recipe courtesy of Happy Days with the Naked Chef
1 1/2 cups basil leaves
2/3 cup and 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest (from organic lemon!)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from organic lemon you zested)
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
3 pounds organic tomatoes. (Heirloom varieties offer the most color and flavor variety)
1 organic hothouse cucumber, skin on, seeded and cut into bite size pieces (if not organic, then peel).
1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives
3 tablespoons capers
1 12-ounce loaf rustic, prairie, sourdough, etc. bread cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
1 clove garlic, halved
Blend at low speed 3/4-cup basil and 1/3-cup oil in a blender until small bits of basil are seen, not to puree. Strain through fine-mesh strainer, pressing to extract as much liquid as possible. In a pinch, I’ve poured into the center of a cheese cloth, pulled the corners together, and twisted until it was tight over the solids and kept twisting, like wringing out a towel. Discard solids. To liquid, add shallot, lemon zest and lemon juice, whisk to blend. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Dressing can be made up to a day ahead, covered and refrigerated. Return to room temperature and re-whisk before using.
Slice tomatoes into bite-size shapes. Place into large bowl, toss with dressing, let marinate for 30 minutes. Take bread slices, brush with olive oil and rub with garlic. Place in sauté pan, turning often, until nicely browned (or just toast if you tend to walk away). After letting bread cool, tear into bite-sized pieces. Add bread, remaining basil, cucumber, olives and capers to tomatoes. Toss to coat, season with salt and pepper if needed, and serve.
Recipe Courtesy of Life With Moxie Cookbook
Classic Potato Salad
2 pounds new red potatoes, whole, scrubbed and unpeeled
2/3 cup vegan mayonnaise (I prefer whole foods 365 brand)
3 fluffy sprigs fresh dill, finely chopped
1 tablespoon coarse ground Dijon mustard
1/4 cup diced red onion
5 green onions, chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
1 dill pickle, chopped (dill relish will work in a pinch for the chopped dill pickle, use a 1/4 cup
1 tablespoon pickle juice (if using relish skip this step)
1/2 teaspoon celery seed (not celery salt)
Salt to taste
Paprika for garnish
In a large pot, cover potatoes with cold water and a tablespoon of sea salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are tender, 20 to 30 minutes. Drain well. Once potatoes have cooled, cut into bite-size cubes.
In a large mixing bowl, combine mayonnaise, dill, mustard, red onion, green onion and celery. Fold in pickles, pickle juice, celery seed and salt to taste. Stir in potatoes. Taste and adjust seasoning. Garnish with paprika. Cover and chill until ready to serve. Can be made a day ahead
Recipe Courtesy of Life With Moxie Cookbook
4 organic corn on the cob
1/2 bunch of fresh coriander
1/2 of a fresh red chili
4 spring onions
3 ripe tomatoes
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Place a griddle pan on a medium-high heat to warm up. Once hot, carefully add the corn and cook for around 15 minutes, or until hot through and lightly golden all over, turning with tongs regularly for even cooking. Remove to a chopping board and leave to cool slightly. Hold the charred corn steady on the board using a tea towel to protect your hand, then carefully run a knife down the sides to cut off the kernels, then put the kernels in a mixing bowl. Pick and roughly chop the coriander leaves, discarding the stalks, then add them to the bowl. Cut the chili in half lengthways.
Hold the stalk end of each half steady, then run a teaspoon down the cut sides to scoop out the seeds and white pith. Finely slice half the chili, place in the bowl (save the rest for another recipe), then wash your hands thoroughly. Trim and finely slice the spring onions, then add to the bowl. Chop up the tomatoes and add them to the bowl with a tiny pinch of salt. Cut the limes in half. Squeeze all the juice into the bowl, drizzle over the extra virgin olive oil and mix well, then serve. Perfect with organic blue corn chips.
Using the palm of your hand, press and roll the limes around on a work surface before you cut them in half – it’ll help you to squeeze lots more juice out of them.
Recipe courtesy of Jamie Oliver.
Grilled Fruit Skewers
1/2 5-to-6-pound seedless watermelon, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 pineapple, peeled, cored and cut into 1-inch cubes
2 mangoes, peeled, pitted and cut into 1-inch cubes
Grated zest and juice of 1 lime
olive oil, for brushing
2 teaspoons chili powder
Coarse sea salt
Soak 18 wooden skewers in water 20 minutes. Thread the watermelon, pineapple and mango cubes on the skewers. Put the skewers in a large zip-top plastic bag, being careful not to puncture the bag; add the lime juice, seal and toss gently to incorporate. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes or until ready to use.
Preheat a grill or grill pan to medium high. Remove the skewers from the bag and place on a baking sheet. Brush the fruit with vegetable oil and place the skewers on the grill. Grill, turning once, until marks appear, six to eight minutes. Transfer to a serving platter.
Combine the lime zest, chili powder and 1 teaspoon salt in a small bowl. Sprinkle the seasoning over the grilled fruit.
Recipe courtesy of Kelsey Nixon for Food Network Magazine
Perfectly Grilled Corn on the Cob
8 ears corn
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs (basil, chives or tarragon)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Heat the grill to medium-low.
Pull the outer husks down the ear to the base. Strip away the silk from each ear of corn by hand. Fold husks back into place, and place the ears of corn in a large bowl of cold water with 1 tablespoon of salt for 10 minutes.
Remove corn from water and shake off excess. Place the corn on the grill, close the cover and grill for 15 to 20 minutes, turning every five minutes, or until kernels are tender when pierced with a paring knife. Remove the husks and eat on the cob or remove the kernels.
Combine in a food processor and process until smooth.
Serve with Herb Butter. Spread over the corn while hot.
Recipe courtesy of Bobby Flay
Classic American Diner Burger
Just one step away from the original, the following recipe offers a classic progression towards a cleaner, healthier lifestyle of food choices. 10 years ago the choices to replace what are considered staples were sketchy, but within the last five years, we have come light years ahead, here are some of the best among them.
4 sprouted whole-grain burger buns, toasted
1 package beefless patties (I prefer Gardein and Beyond Burger– made from mostly peas, give peas a chance)
4 slices vegan cheddar cheese slices (I prefer Follow Your Heart, available at Whole Foods)
pickle slices (dill or sweet, your preference)
Brush burger with oil before placing on grill. BBQ the patties over low heat, turning once after five minutes. Top with cheese before removing, cover with lid to melt cheese, then place each patty on toasted burger bun, dress with your favorite combo from among the classic choices above… This is as close as you can get to a diner style burger as a vegan. Very satisfying when you’re craving it.
Sauces from the Barbeque Belt
As mentioned in the introduction, the barbeque belt is loaded with competing barbeque standards. Here are the basic sauce foundations for the three most common. Use as you wish!
Round out the meatless options with Gardeins Chick’n Scallopini. Give it a very simple treatment of one of the sauces below while turning the pieces often over a medium low heat for about 10-15 minutes. Or cut it into bite-side pieces and grill it as a skewer with pineapple, onions and mushrooms brushed with one of the sauces while cooking.
1 cup tomato sauce
1 cup vinegar
5 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 small onion, chopped
Dash black pepper (more if you want it hotter)
Dash cayenne pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup water
Mix all ingredients together in large sauce pan, bring to a quick boil, reduce heat and let simmer for 10 minutes. Figure out your own secret ingredient and dump it into the mix.
Down East-style Sauce
1 gallon vinegar
3/4 cup salt
2 tablespoons cayenne pepper
3 tablespoons dried red pepper flakes
1/2 cup molasses (or 1 cup brown sugar)
Combine all ingredients. Allow to stand for four hours. Serve as table sauce.
Western North Carolina-style Sauce
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon celery seed
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup ketchup
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
Mix all ingredients together in sauce pan, bring to a boil, and remove from heat. Pour over meat. Use some as a baste and save the rest to serve on the side.
Grilled Peaches with Bourbon Vanilla Whipped Cream
serves up to 12
1 container coconut whip cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons bourbon
6 organic peaches, halved and pitted
With a whisk, add the vanilla and bourbon to the container of whipped cream. Once mixed, return to container and refrigerate.
Over medium-low heat, brush a very light layer of olive oil on the cut side of each peach half. Put the peaches face down on the BBQ, then cover. Cook peaches for about six to eight minutes, until there are distinct grill marks and the peaches feel warmed through and slightly softened. Remove from grill (they may stick a tiny bit), flip over, and top with a big dollop of whipped cream.
Recipe courtesy The Kitchn
Sweet & Tangy Grilled Pineapple
Yields: 12-18 pieces
1 whole pineapple
1/2 cup vegan butter, melted
1 cup honey
1/2 cup Grand Marnier
1 tablespoon balsamic
1 plastic squirt gun (or basting brush if you must, we know you want to use the squirt gun)
To begin, cut pineapple into one-inch spears (like a pickle). Toss pineapple spears in melted butter and then brown sugar, coating each one as evenly as possible. Fill squirt gun with Grand Marnier and balsamic.
Over a medium high heat grill, place pieces directly onto the grill grates. Once all spears are placed on the grill, squirt them with your Grand Marnier/balsamic mix. Turn each piece and spray again. Repeat process until all sides have caramelized slightly and have grill marks. Remove from grill and plate. Stand back and let the flood gates open, making sure to save a piece for yourself!
To round out the perfect BBQ you need some great cocktails, find the perfect one in this Life with Moxie Column: Classic summer cocktails
Summer in Southwest Florida may be hot and rainy, but it is also relaxed, the rain brings cooler nights and we have light longer into the evening. It’s the perfect time to take advantage of opportunities with friends and family that will soon be getting lost in the shuffle as season returns. So grab a few citronella tiki torches and candles, some adorable outdoor table wear and glasses and get your invitations sent. It’s time to celebrate… food, friends and the season. Cheers!
Have ideas you’d like to add? Need more suggestions? Let me know!
Julie Koester is CEO of Life with Moxie, a Lifestyle Revolution Company www.lifewithmoxie.com, CEO of Moxie Creed www.moxiecreed.com and Host of Life with Moxie Radio, Saturday’s at 1pm on 98.9 WGUF in Southwest Florida. You can reach her at Julie@lifewithmoxie.com
Passionate Living by Design, That’s Life with Moxie
S. Jonathan Bass, How ’bout a Hand for the Hog’: The Enduring Nature of the Swine as a Cultural Symbol of the South, Southern Culture, Vol. 1, No. 3, Spring 1995.
Mary Douglas, ed. Food in the Social Order. New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 1984.
Joe Gray Taylor. Eating, Drinking and Visiting in the Old South. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1982.
John Egerton. Southern Food: At Home, On the Road, In History. New York: Alfred A Knopf, 1987.
Craig Claiborne. Southern Cooking. New York: Times Books, 1987.
Greg Johnson and Vince Staten’s Real Barbecue, a book that is lamentably out of print.
Editor’s Note: The opinions and views in this piece are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect those of Naples Herald, Lee Herald, its staff, or its ownership, nor is it meant to be taken as an endorsement of any products or services mentioned therein.
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