skip to Main Content
America’s First Barbecue Critic

America’s First Barbecue Critic

George Washington was more than the Father of this Country. He was the Father of Modern Barbecue.

His diaries are filled with juicy references to that “succulent boar” we gorged on in Alexandria, or that superb hunk of venison cooked so slow over the fires that it fell off the bone. Of course, if a meal displeased him, he could be as tough as, well, the meat.

“It was stringy beyond belief; even Franklin, who’ll eat anything, couldn’t stomach it.”

Both before and after the Revolutionary War, Washington frequented barbecues along the Potomac River, as Mary V. Thompson notes in “Cornbread Nation 2: The United States of Barbecue.”George even hosted more than a few barbecues of his own, giving one in May 1773 and buying “45 weight” of flour “for barbecue,” presumably to make the bread or biscuits that were part of the spread.

After he put the young country (and barbecue) on the map, other candidates continued the barbecue tradition on the grounds of county courthouses all over America with the scheme of offering free food in return for an opportunity to share their opinions with the dining public. It would certainly have worked with me.

Contrary to popular belief, barbecue didn’t originate in this country. The word, itself, derives from the carib word babracot, which was the cooking technique the Caribs used long before we, of course, perfected it.

Although initially associated with poorer citizens, barbecue, today, allows the food snobs and elitists to get in touch with the “common” man. Mainly, it’s because just about any barbecue is better than the tripe they usually review.

When barbecue regions of the country aren’t fighting with other barbecue strongholds, they’re fighting with themselves.

There are North Carolinians who contend that the only true barbecue is cooked around Lexington, in the central part of the state. Then there are those who declare that only the barbecue “down east,” around a town called Goldsboro, has authentic, down home, melt-in-your-mouth flavor.

There’s a debate in Memphis on what constitutes Memphis Barbecue. For some, it’s dry-rub ribs, for others, it’s wet ribs. I’m not as picky.

For noted food writer Calvin Trillin, Arthur Bryant’s in Kansas City was practically a religious experience. I’ve worshipped there myself.

And Texas, well…you don’t want to mess with Texans on the subject. I told one I liked beans in my chili and he didn’t speak to me for 10 years.

And don’t think just because you got some grill working in the backyard you’re barbecuing. You’d definitely be skewered by any aficionado on the subject for saying you’re doing anything else but grilling.

Real barbecue is slow cooked over indirect heat and the smoke that’s produced contains many components that inhibit the growth of bacteria and fungus. Meaning, if you need any excuse for eating it, it’s healthy for you.

So…which tastes best on the grill, pork or beef? A tomato-based or vinegar sauce? Mesquite, charcoal, hardware, hickory? From where?

George would expect you to have some answers real fast.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back To Top