In the United States, it
is rare to throw a backyard party without barbecue. Barbecue is common in the South where it’s understanding is
different for different people. In Texas, for instance, barbecue is understood
as beef and brisket for that matter. In North Carolina, on the other hand,
barbecue means pork. What is common is the universal understanding that barbecue, generally, is meat regardless of what
type of meat that is. Barbecue is not confined
to those places. Today, there is Japanese barbecue, Greek barbecue, and
Mongolian Barbecue and so forth. The delicacy has evolved from what it was initially
and has acquired the different meanings harbored by different people. History
traces this delicacy to the South
Americas where it started as a way of preserving meat. This paper will try to
provide an understanding of the meal and
its history.

Barbecue, as stated, is
understood differently by various people. North Carolinians know that barbecue is made
of up of pork cooked over hickory coals and accompanied by such seasonings as
vinegar and red pepper pods. This is not
far from the meaning of the word barbecue. The word is viewed as a derivative of the West Indian term “barbacoa,” which
represents a slow method of cooking meat over hot coals (MacClancy, 1992). Many other theories seek to explain the origin
of the word, but the West Indian term provides the most plausible explanation. Despite
these many theories, it is widely agreed that the practice of roasting
meat over pieces of coal was adopted from
the indigenous people during the colonial period. From them, the early settlers
changed barbacoa to barbecue, which became their lexicon.

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Aside from its little-understood etymology, barbecue’s history
is clear. It started, as stated, with the Southerners. In the Southern parts of
the United States, pig became an ever-present source of food. Pigs were low to
maintain and a good source of food. It was the most popular meat-food in the
South in the period before the Civil War. Pigs would be released out into the
forest, and whenever food supplies were
low or depleted, the Southerners would hunt them and use them for food. The
pigs were not only a source of food but also a delicacy during celebrations. Out
of these celebrations, the traditional
Southern barbecue emerged. The region from which this tradition emerged was
North Carolina. According to William Byrd, in one of his books, pigs were a
staple commodity in North Carolina. The North Carolinians consumed so much
swine that they were as temperamental as pigs and grunted rather than speaking
(Taylor, 1982).

After the colonial period
was over, the practice of holding barbecue gatherings was well established. However, the traditions associated with large
barbecues had taken root in the fifty years before
the civil war. During this time, large
farm owners held large barbecues for celebrations. Some of the festivities
where barbecues were present included the
“pig pickin’s” held for slaves (Hillard,
2014). Pork production was also an important
task during the pre-Civil War period. However, almost all of the produced pork was consumed locally. The farmers in the region
began taking better care of the pigs and ensured they were well fed. The reason
for these was to fatten them before slaughter. They helped provide a self-sufficient way of providing food for the
Southerners (Hillard, 2014). As more and more pigs became fattened and
slaughtered for food, barbecues also became many ensuring the full establishment
of the practice.

Later, in the nineteenth
century, barbecue gained more popularity and became a common thing in church
and political events the same way it was in private parties (Egerton, 1987). A barbecue became a popular and inexpensive means for lobbying for votes. Organizers
of political events would provide people with barbecue,
and at times it was accompanied by
whiskey (Bass, 1995). Barbecue also breached the class division during
gatherings. It was a not food for people of a specific class and thus brought
people of all kind together political, and
church barbecues were the first to bring all people together. During church
picnics, barbecue would be served with
other covered foods prepared by the women of the church. Today, this practice
is still common in the South (Bass, 1995).
From these practices, barbecue
restaurants also cropped up where the owners served takeaway barbecue. These restaurants grew from small, concrete, and
tin-roofed shacks which later saw stools and tables added to them and pig
adorned on the outside of the building. Upon the advent of the automobiles,
these restaurants became more popular and profitable due to the customers who
came from far places (Wilson,
2014). Today, there are different types
of barbecues that serve all kinds of people.

The history of barbecue provides
an interesting story and depicts the
varied history of the Southerners. Barbecue joints have flourished for the past
several decades and have become overly popular.
Although they are time sensitive and require a lot of care to prepare, they
have endured and become a delicacy for all. It has become a Southern symbol
where pig arts adorn most of the restaurants in the region. As noted, the
practice emerged from the region, and although the name’s history cannot be definitively placed to certain people or period, the Southerners are
indeed the originators of the food. Pigs today remain popular for barbecue in the region.


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