We use it every day: language. We use it without thinking much about it once acquired. But if you pause for a moment and look into it, it’s fascinating. Take the word “barbeque” for example. It is one of the most variable words in English, with its iterations in brevity (BBQ), hyphens (bar-be-que), and countless variations thereupon (bar-b-q).
A Mysterious Etymology
Potentially rooted in the Latin barba – beard, barber, barbarian – barbeque cooking is one of the world’s oldest methods of cooking. It’s nearly impossible to tell definitively, but speculation exists whether humans discovered barbeque by finding animals roasted naturally by wildfire, or if there was a 2001: A Space Odyssey moment when we accidentally knocked meat into a fire or figured it might be better cooked. Either way, there was no going back once the benefits of cooking not just meat, but all kinds of food were discovered.
Old World and New World Barbeque
Gonzalo Fernández De Oviedo y Valdés is a Spanish explorer first credited with the term barbecoa in 1526. In more recent times, the word has often been shorthanded to BBQ for signage and menus. Chef and cookbook author Sara Bir remarks, “In my personal usage I only say or write BBQ if it’s meat cooked slowly over a fire/grill, or the sauce associated with it. In the Midwest, people say ‘BBQ’ generically for any cookout. Grilling up weenies and burgers would count as a BBQ as an event, but you’d not call them ‘BBQd hot dogs.’ There’s no right or wrong way to use the term, or even how to spell it. Which of course opens it up for all kinds of debates and confusions.” Interestingly, while the practice of barbeque seems to have an Old World/indigenous root, its name drifted from Latin into different languages of explorers and conquistadors.
Chef Becky is well-versed in tempering heat, flame, and smoke to produce the desired effect in her cooking. “Improvisation is a great skill in cooking, even necessary,” she surmises. “I’ve had equipment blow up, stop working for no apparent reason, and have had the Califon Fire Department graciously let me borrow equipment in order to get an order out,” she recounts. “The great thing about barbeque is its ancient simplicity: if you’ve got ingredients and you’ve got fire, you’ve got a meal.”
What are some tips the Chef can share about barbeque? “Resting time after the meat has cooked is highly important, in order to avoid overcooking,” she advises. “People often forget that even after taking the meat off the heat source, it’s still cooking.” This is where the world of math, time, and meat collide: with a little practice, you can cook for yourself that delicious barbeque you once had, heard about, or saw on a tv food show. “You can’t be afraid to get your hands dirty or to work with meat,” the Chef instructs. “One of the problems with automated food, delivery, push-button ordering, and all the convenience of already-prepared food is that it detaches you from the food-making process. Food is a journey, from seed to plate. You use all your senses cooking, firing on all cylinders as they say. Barbeque is ancient, primal, and instinctive. It’s in our DNA, but it gets rusty if not used periodically.”
Summer’s Fast Approaching
Bex’s summer BBQ menu – which will launch approximately in June – promises an elevated BBQ experience, with choices ranging from Baby Back Ribs to Chipotle Orange-Glazed Chicken to Chimichurri Flank Steak to Seared Salmon to Cauliflower “Steaks.”
So get out there and grill, or leave the cooking to Bex and enjoy this time-honored way of eating!