Americans are smitten with barbeque. Our mesquite, hickory, pecan, and applewood smoke clouds rise to the heavens over Memphis, Kansas City, and Texas. Kingsford charcoal or a push-button propane grill decorates most every backyard. Depending upon your longitude and latitude we might eat our BBQ with brown sugar baked or Boracho beans, Regular or Mustard potato salad, grilled or cream corn, deviled eggs, coleslaw, Texas toast, pickles and onions (and watermelon or peach cobbler for dessert). But with all this bragging, chest pounding, and face wiping going on I wonder if we realize there is a whole world of BBQ out there that some of us have yet to stab a fork into.
Not to be sacrilegious, but I’m pretty sure God invented BBQ, or maybe it was Able, or Noah (Genesis 8:20-21). And from that time to this just about every race of people on earth has been roasting something in smoke and flames in the great outdoors. There’s just something about the smell of it, and its hot, spicy, carnivorous deliciousness? In the American west chuckwagon supper is still served to hard working cowboys and tourists. We can probably trace the chuckwagon to the Basque people with sheep wagons…or the pioneers and cattle drivers. In the land down under they call it Bush Tucker, and might throw another shrimp (they actually call them prawns) on the Barbie for their visitors. The Australian Aborigines even have a few indigenous spices that set their rubs and sauces apart. In South Africa men gather around a smoldering grill piled high with Boerewors, peri peri chicken, Biltong and Sosaties, and otherwise enjoy a “Bring and Braai” with their friends. In Jamaica mon the locals gather native wood and scotch bonnet peppers for their famous jerk.
In India chicken roasts in a Tandoori crock buried in hot coals, and chapli kabab (beef) patties sizzle on grills over hot coals. Shish kabobs (grilled lamb on skewers) originate from Turkey. They call their barbeque mangal. The Lebanese serve nuts with their kebabs, along with pitas, hummus, and Tabouleh salad. Traditional Greek gyros are stuffed with pork that has been grilled on a rotating upright spit and sliced off into thin little pieces. The Arabs enjoy a wonderful street food called Shawarma that’s quite a bit like the Greek gyro, but made with lamb. And speaking of grilled meat on flat bread, Mexicans slice up carne asada for fajitas, or pull apart deep pit Barbacoa and top it with pico de gallo. In South America the Gauchos have asado, and Argentineans slather their grilled steaks with a delicious chimichurri sauce. Brazilians have churrasco. Moroccans use preserved lemons for flavoring on their grilled meats. Russians raise their vodka glasses to Shashlyk (grilled pork), served with piroshky, pickled cucumbers, and a host of Russian style salads.
Whole pigs are roasted over a fire (Kalua Pork) at luaus all over the beaches of Hawaii. Filipinos roast whole pigs also, called lechon, and serve portions with a cold, sweet gravy called Mang Tomas. Koreans share their bulgogi and galbi with drooling, lip-smacking customers, and other south pacific natives are munching on Satay. You might own a Japanese hibachi, but have you had their yakitori? In China the Cantonese enjoy char siu. The Polish call grilling “grilowanie.” Italians love Bistecca and also enjoy a huge outdoor festival called Piacere Barbecue celebrated every year. And though it may seem like a tall story, the Emerald Isle (Ireland) to my surprise plays host to the World BBQ Championship each year (I thought they just boiled everything?)
So here’s my point, it’s not just our thing. While most of America enjoys spring, summer and fall dining on the patio or beach or mountains, upwind of a Barbeque grill or back-yard smoker, with a knife in one hand and a fork in the other, passing the A-1 for our medium rare t-bones, ribeyes, and New York Strips, topping hotdogs with kraut/mustard or chili, or wrangling a messy, dripping char-grilled burger in between our chompers and across our tingling tongues; while we argue over who has the best smoked ribs and brisket, oh, oh, oh… I challenge you to spend part of the season taking a wooden skewer and stabbing something…well…foreign onto it. For heaven sakes, it’s BBQ right? Meat…smoke…spicy…. how can anything BBQ be wrong? We might even find a new favorite food.
“In the seventh month on the first day of the month you shall have a Sabbath rest, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation. You shall do no customary work on it; and you shall offer an offering made by fire to the Lord.” Leviticus 23:24-25