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Why Is It Called Barbecue?

(photo by ifoodufood@Flickr)

The standard modern English spelling of the word is barbecue, but other accepted variations are barbeque and abbreviations like bar-b-q or BBQ. But no matter how it’s spelled or how the word is used it means good eatin’ and that’s what you’ll find tomorrow at the Taste of Country BBQ at the Erie County Fairgrounds. Gates open at noon with live music including Clay Walker, stuff to do for the family and genuine BBQ from some of the best BBQ places in town.

Many people think BBQ is throwing meat on a hot charcoal fire. But that’s not what the purists do. Genuine BBQ is the slow roasting of meat, poultry and fish over heat and smoke – most often from wood, and somtimes compressed wood or hot coals over several hours.

The term BBQ can refer to the meat, as in “we’re eating BBQ.”

Or it can refer to the cooking method, as in “we’re going to BBQ some venison.”

Or BBQ can mean the barbeque grill or smoker itself.

In the south BBQ is usually pork. In parts of Texas and the southwest it’s often beef. We’ll have it all tomorrow.

What’s the history of the word? Barbecue comes from the word barbacoa – meaning “sacred fire pit.”

In the Caribbean islands, barbacoa meant digging a hole in the ground and usually cooking a whole goat with a pot underneath it to catch the drippings. It was covered with heavy palm tree leaves and coals, then ignited.

There’s one story that French explorers visiting Caribbean islands saw a whole hog being cooked. They described it as barbe a queue, meaning “From beard to tail.”

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