Barbecue: An Introduction

Barbecue is a humble foodstuff that has somehow attained the status of a "Southern cultural icon." This project will explore the nature and history of barbecue in the Southern United States, and analyze the reasons why a type of slow-cooked pork is emblematic of what makes the South distinctively Southern. Barbecue, along with its history, rites and rituals, is a symbol of all that is right in the South. A respect for tradition, the value of a job done carefully and well, the variety of styles in the South that are all distinctively "Southern," and a history of interracial and inter-class mingling and festival are those qualities which make the South as a region something worth guarding and preserving. Barbecue is emblematic of all of these traits. Barbecue means recipes passed down through generations, the craftsmanship and skill of the "pit men" who prepare the meat, a tradition of celebration regardless of race or class, and the cherished foodways of the South. In examining barbecue, I am attempting to examine the best qualities of being Southern in America.

This project is divided into four main segments of text. The sections on the history of barbecue and barbecue by region are descriptive in scope. These first two sections place barbecue in the larger perspective of Southern history and geography. Next, I examine the nature of Southern foodways with particular respect to barbecue. This section explains why barbecue is an important food in the South, and why barbecue has taken hold in the Southern United States and not (to a significant degree) anywhere else. In Barbecue: A Southern Icon, the concept of barbecue as a quintessential Southern icon is examined. Its place in the collective consciousness of the South, as manifested in mores, literature, and music, is analyzed.

After you have read all of this analysis of barbecue as a phenomenon, you will probably crave some authentic Southern barbecue. The archive of menus and recipes provides some signposts for buying or purchasing some good barbecue, and the barbecue bibliography contains some scholarly works as well as books which profile great barbecue restaurants.


continue on to The History of Barbecue in the South

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