August and barbecue are two words that are often in the same sentence. What better time than the summer month par excellence to give life to convivial barbecues with friends? The barbecue of August 15th, not surprisingly, has a very respectable tradition in Italy. However, have you ever wondered how the barbecue was born and what is the history of this powerful cooking method that you can use in your outdoor kitchen? Here then all the interesting facts about the history of the BBQ.
Ancient origins for a slow and low-temperature cooking
The origins of the barbecue are very ancient and seem to date back to the time of Christopher Columbus, when he first set foot on American soil (which he had mistaken for the Indies). The Native Americans of the small island where the fleet of Columbus landed, welcomed all the crew members. The latter were able to observe how, when they offered them meat, it was cooked over a flame that was NOT direct, but passed from some bundles of green wood through a wooden mat. The mat was used to prevent the meat from coming into contact with soil, insects and other contamination. The smoke from the cooking also had the same function, as it was used to preserve the food for a long time and keep it safe. After learning the technique, Spanish colonists moved to other areas of North America, so that the barbecue method also reached the present-day Virginia in the late 16th century.
The etymology of the term “barbecue”
Where does the word “barbecue” come from? It seems that the Spanish, reporting on the cooking method they had observed in America, called it “Barbacoa”, from the original “Baa bu kan” of the Caribbean. Others, on the other hand, trace the term back to the French saying “de la barbe a la queque” (from head to tail) which, however, specifically referred to spit roasting. Therefore, the Spanish word seems to be more reliable.
The barbecue belt
This explains why barbecue is a real institution in the United States. In fact, it is part of one of the traditions of which Americans, especially in the southern states (Missisipi, Texas, Kansas, etc.), cannot do without. The area stretching from Carolina to the Midwest even has a specific name: the barbecue belt. It is said that the first restaurant to propose only this method of cooking meat dates back to the early 20th century, in Kansas City.
The evolution of the barbecue in Europe
When some of the Spanish explorers returned home (unlike the colonists who, instead, remained in America), they wanted at all costs to reproduce this technique of cooking meat, so much so that then it became one of the most loved in the world. The first European reproductions of the barbacoa are limited to masonry blocks topped with sheet metal. Later, in 1952, there was a turning point with the invention of the kettle. It is a kind of metal buoy invented for cooking meat by George Stephen, an employee of a buoy company, who had a passion for barbecue. With the kettle, there was no fear of the wind and cooking remained safe, protected by the basic brazier and the lid. The result was so amazing in terms of flavour of meat that Stephen and his wife patented the invention as the Original Kettle, under the Weber-Stephen brand name.
Nowadays you can find the latest barbecues in our outdoor kitchens, so you always have the pleasure of grilling in the company, not only in August, but throughout the year.