By Alexandria Harris
I apologize in advance for the offenses and blasphemy I’m about to commit against swine and vegetarians but summertime is the season for carnivores like myself.
According to the American Hearth Patio and Barbeque Association there is no definitive history of BBQ. Some say the Spanish introduced it with their way of cooking and the term was derived from the word “barbacoa” and others say the Caribbean natives taught the French when they arrived on our southern shores.
I say it probably began in primitive times when the cavemen couldn’t figure out any other way to cook their food and just let the fire caress it over a spit. Surprisingly, to me at least, barbecues have been White House traditions for many presidents.
On this Fourth of July, I literally cannot wait for some. Ribs, chicken, my personal favorite grilled pork chops, brats, hamburgers, hot dogs, and shrimp shish kabobs soothe my inner beast. It’s the animal kingdom over at the Harris household and humans are the top of the food chain (the rabbits are just lucky my grandmother isn’t still gracing us with her presence).
But we can’t forget the foods traditionally paired with barbecue. Hearty potato salad, corn on the cob dripping with melted butter, rolls or bread of some kind, lemonade or sweet tea, maybe some baked beans or coleslaw if you’re into that, and do not forget the dessert. I should’ve apologized in advance for those who haven’t eaten yet. Consider this motivation to get those grills firing up.
Then there are the memories. The laughter. Hot days when you could practically put the meat on the ground—if you weren’t afraid of the squirrels making off with it–and let it cook itself. Sprinkler runs, water fights, ice cream smears, buttery fingers, fire crackers, fireworks, cold brewskies, loud blaring music and dancing combine into memories tinged with sweet nostalgia.
Yes I would argue barbecue is a way of life.
My father always told me about when he visited his relatives in the South and they would just string up the hog and watch the entrails fall out before they put it over a spit and roasted it. Not exactly the idea of a community activity for a then impressionable fourteen year old, but I couldn’t erase the image of folks gathered around, connected by the irresistible allure of some pig.
I don’t know what makes barbecue so potent on holidays like the Fourth of July, Memorial Day, and Labor Day but maybe it has to do with the aforementioned nostalgia. When I eat barbecue, I feel connected to people, sometimes take inadvertent trips down memory lane, and mostly do it with family.
So hopefully you’re eating barbecue with people you love (or can tolerably survive with and plot revenge with a water gun later) before you go see the fireworks or whatever your plans may be. For the Team Meat people like myself, I raise my rib and salute you and for my veggie inclined folks, get in on those grilled shish kabobs. They are wonderfully flavorful.
Happy Fourth of July!
Alexandria Harris is a writer and recent college graduate. When she isn’t writing, watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy on repeat, or working in her father’s company, she tweets regularly on her account @_ALHarris. Alexandria lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin