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To start things off I want to make a few comments about the word barbecue. What comes to mind when you hear the word? The origin of the word is the Taino Indian name for their wooden cooking frame, a barbacot. Etching is by Theodore de Bry (1591).

The Spanish called it barbacoa, which in turn is the origin of the English word barbecue. A less likely, but still prevalent, theory postulates that the word comes from the French barbe-a-queue, which is dismissed by the Oxford Dictionary as being based merely on the sound of the phrase. For the most part, the traditional definition was the slow roasting of meat over a smoky wood fire, meat cooked in that manner, or an event where that style of cooking was done. The old-style barbecue photo is courtesy of the State Archives of North Carolina.

However, that definition was not universal. Mary Randolph’s 1824 cookbook, The Virginia Housewife, or Methodical Cook gave a recipe for barbecued shote (a young pig) in a pan of water, wine, and seasonings. During the early part of the twentieth century, the definition was expanded to include what are now termed grilling and smoking, where food was cooked on a charcoal fueled metal cooker. Grills and smokers have now evolved beyond just charcoal fueled devices of the 1920’s to ones heated by gas and electricity. Only 15 percent of the people that cook outdoors now use wood smoke. The word barbecue is now commonly abbreviated as bbq, BAR-B-QUE, even the Australian barbie, and many more. It is sometimes spelled barbeque, although that spelling is not recognized by Webster’s dictionary. The word is used as a noun, a verb, and an adjective. So, what is barbecue? It now includes virtually every aspect of outdoor cooking and everyone has their own connotation of the word. The meaning of the word barbecue is truly in the eyes of the beholder.

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