What came first, the Barb or the…
-ecue? –acoa? –eque? BBQ?
One sizzling controversy which has always annoyed myMEGusta is the notion that when a lady in Connecticut cooks a steak over hot coals, she is NOT supposed to call it barbecue. Oh,no, she is chastised, barbecue is slow cooking in smoke with special rubs and sauces, takes hours, always results in succulent well-done meat, not that juicy sirloin you are talking about.
Well, MyMEGusta begs to differ.
She is certain that the barbacoa of Spain existed well before the Texans and Carolinians invented their version, and she is here to tell you that it is more like the meat-cooked-over-coals, over and out, version. And, we are entitled to call this treat barbecue, an obvious derivative of the original term.
This little epiphany took place recently in the Mallorcan countryside, with a large group enjoying a banquet of delicious salads, bread, and a parade of grilled meats: intensely flavorful chicken, three kinds of sausages, lamb, and hamburgers. The festivities were typically Spanish in flavor, with plenty of sangria and red wine, and very reminiscent of barbacoa myMEGusta enjoyed years ago in Argentina (undoubtably something imported by the conquistadores).
One special treat that evening was the Escalivada Catalana, a mélange of roasted red peppers, tomatoes, eggplant (peeled after gently cooking in the oven), onion, garlic, olive oil and salt, served room temperature. (The good news for MyMEGusta was that there were leftovers!!)
Not that the barbecues of the American South are flawed or lesser in way. Every state has its own style, and within a geography, every chef has her own rubs, sauces, favorite cuts of meat, you name it, and they range from sweet to spicy, sometimes with the timing of the application of sauce a big issue. A personal favorite is pork ribs which have been superbly seasoned and slowly cooked in smoke until exquisitely tender, with most of the fat rendered out, what’s left being zesty and crispy, but not too sweet, extra sauce being extraneous.
Although the word “barbecue” or any variant of it would not appear in their native tongues, Asian cuisines also have their variants, Chinese pork and ribs, Japanese yakitori and Korean meats cooked over flames being the most familiar in the US.
And, then there’s the whole issue of “putting another shrimp on the barbie”, a happy nod to our Australian friends who are known to cart their little grills to the beach. A research trip Down Under (for the sake of science, of course) is on the radar!