No one really knows for sure where barbeque came from, but the theory is that Spanish ships visiting the Caribbean called the natives’ method of slow-cooking meat over a wood platform barbacoa.
By the 19th century, the tradition had made its way to the American South and because pigs were plentiful, pork became the primary meat. Traditionally, barbecue required three things, the meat, smoke, and a sauce. Barbecue was a dietary staple to impoverished southerners, who often ate it with fried okra and sweet potatoes. It is still considered “soul food”.
The four main styles of barbecue in America are named after their place of origin, namely Memphis, North Carolina, Kansas City, and Texas. Memphis is famous for pulled pork-shoulder doused in sweet tomato-based sauce and eaten as a sandwich. North Carolina smokes the whole hog in a vinegar-based sauce. Kansas City natives prefer ribs cooked in a dry rub, and Texans prefer beef (duh!). Texas is divided into East and West styles. Because East Texas is closer to Tennessee, their favorite is pulled pork. West Texas leans toward mesquite-grilled “cowboy style” brisket.
Other countries have their versions also. Korean barbecue is made with thin slices of beef or pork cooked and served with rice. Argentina has asado, a marinade-free meat cooked in a smokeless pit. Mongolian barbecue, which is neither barbecue or Mongolian, is a kind of stir fry where you select the meats, vegetables, spices, and sauces you want for your dish and it is then cooked on a very hot grill.
True barbecue is distinctly American and a traditional Fourth of July treat. If you want to see what Montana barbecue is like, join us at the 16th Annual Montana BBQ Cook-Off tomorrow (Sunday, June 24 in Absarokee).