Posted by Joe Pessell on April 10, 2000

In Reply to: BB Q posted by ESC on March 28, 2000

: "BARBEQUE has been popular in America since early colonial times. The word comes from the Spanish 'barbacoa,' which the Spanish explorers and adventurers of the 1660s got from the Taino tribe of Haiti, where it meant a frame work of sticks on which to roast or smoke meat (it's related to the French 'boucan,' which gives us the buccaneer. By 1709 in America barbecue meant a whole animal carcass roasted over an open fire, by 1733 a social gathering to roast and eat it, and by 1800 a political rally at which barbecue was served - a good way to attract and hold a large group of people through a long series of speeches. For example, William Henry Harrison, Whig candidate for President, held a mammoth political barbecue in 1840 at which party workers and prospective voters consumed eighteen tons of meat and pies (he won the election). The last such Presidential political barbecues were given by Lyndon Johnson at his Texas ranch, 1965-69.

: Barbecues, however, are associated with cowboys in our mind and whole roasted steers were traditional for large cowboy gatherings; early recipes describe how to dig a pit ten feet deep, build a special ladder for climbing into and out of it, etc. Railroad ties have been a favorite cooking fuel and a roll of wire fencing is still a favorite grill in Texas. Such gargantuan feasts are a far cry from the suburban backyard barbecues that became popular in the 1950s, in which steak, chicken, or hamburgers were cooked over small portable grills. These replaced the wienie roasts of the 1920s and the steak fries of the 1930s in popularity and by the late 1950s were widely known as cookouts (this word originating in the southwest U.S. around 1949). Barbecue also came to have a slang meaning in the 1920s, especially among blacks, of a mouth-watering girl, the general public being aware of this use mainly from the song 'Struttin' with Some Barbecue.'" From Listening to America: An Illustrated History of Words and Phrases from Our Lively and Splendid Past by Stuart Berg Flexner, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1982. Pages 490-491

Aye Carumba! I hope they no longer barbeque over railroad ties! Treated with creosote, they would impart a NASTY flavor, indeed!