A couple of weeks ago, I had the privilege of giving an interview to a dear family friend in my hometown of Jasper, Alabama. Margaret Dabbs is many things: runner, lawyer, writer, wife of my brilliant pediatrician, and mother of two of the finest young men you'll ever meet. So, all in all, she's all right. Anyway, she writes a column every other week for my hometown newspaper, the Daily Mountain Eagle, and this past week's topic was BBQ. Here's what she had to say, and here's her intro:
Historians debate about where the term “barbecue” originated. Some suggest it developed when the Spanish came to the Caribbean and found the inhabitants slow-cooking meat over a wooden platform and called it “barbacoa.” Others trace it to Haiti and a small minority attempts to give it French roots.
Barbecue restaurant owners take great delight in imagining every possible way to spell the term. Driving through almost any Southern town you will discover establishments offering from an endless list of spellings- Bar-B-Q, Barbeque, B B-Q, Bar-be-que, Bar-BQ, Bar B Que, BBQ, Bar-b-que, Barbque, and on and on. For the benefit of English teachers, proof readers, or obsessively correct spellers, even highly respected dictionaries cannot agree and offer a variety of spellings.
Barbecue fans adamantly argue about the best barbecue with unmoving loyalty as seriously as football fans argue about the best teams. Some believe if it is not pulled pork or pork ribs, it is not barbecue. Those with a Texas lean will tell you it must be beef. Chicken has its following and the sauce may be white rather than some shade of red.
In spite of the various dividing points on this subject, surely very few will argue with the proposition that barbecue is a cherished symbol of the South. It marks patriotic holidays, brings families and friends together in homes, at picnics, or other social gatherings, and became a traditional offering at political rallies and church meetings. We cook it ourselves with secret family sauce recipes and buy it for take-out from the local seller or the folks offering it on the side of the road or in the church parking lot. We might eat-in at a small local restaurant or a big chain because it gives us comfort and pleasure and may even awaken memories of non-returnable days when our lives seemed less complicated to maneuver.