Barbecue is a word that means different things to different
people. It can be a verb or a noun. It can be pulled pork or beef
ribs. And, especially in the American South, it can cause intense
debate and stir regional pride. Perhaps, then, it is no surprise
that the roots of this food tradition are often misunderstood.
In Savage Barbecue, Andrew Warnes traces what he calls
America's first food through early transatlantic literature and
culture. Building on the work of scholar Eric Hobsbawm, Warnes
argues that barbecue is an invented tradition, much like
Thanksgiving-one long associated with frontier mythologies of
ruggedness and relaxation.
Starting with Columbus's journals in 1492, Warnes shows how the
perception of barbecue evolved from Spanish colonists' first
fateful encounter with natives roasting iguanas and fish over fires
on the beaches of Cuba. European colonists linked the new food to a
savagery they perceived in American Indians, ensnaring barbecue in
a growing web of racist attitudes about the New World. Warnes also
unearths the etymological origins of the word barbecue, including
the early form barbacoa; its coincidental similarity to barbaric
reinforced emerging stereotypes.
Barbecue, as it arose in early transatlantic culture, had less
to do with actual native practices than with a European desire to
define those practices as barbaric. Warnes argues that the word
barbecue retains an element of violence that can be seen in our
culture to this day. Savage Barbecue offers an original
and highly rigorous perspective on one of America's most popular
Subjects: History, Sociology
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