Q - Southern BBQ Joint

History of Barbeque

Lesson #1 – Barbeque is NOT a noun

Man eating ribsBarbeque belongs to the South. The fine folks who live in these 13 states (from Texas to the Atlantic Coast and from Kentucky to Florida) have earned the right to declare their region “The Barbeque Belt.” Barbeque’s as much a part of the southern culture as NASCAR and Bluegrass. In fact, these are the only sensible folks who realize that “a barbeque” ain’t a shiny metal thing you buy at Home Hardware to stick on yer back deck and use fer cookin’ weenies and frozen patties in the summertime. (That’d be a GRILL and there’s a big difference folks.) An honest-to-goodness BARBEQUE is a celebration that centres around great food. Real barbeque takes patience but as sure as a pig says oink, we can tell you – it’s worth the wait. Way back when, (or during “pre-colonization” if you want to get fancy about it) every farm had about as many pigs as a Southern Belle has fake – uh, eyelashes. And where there was a reason to celebrate (weddings, births, barn-raisings) there was a pig on a spit. And the party-throwers, they’d invite everyone they knew to come and enjoy the feast. While everyone gathered around the pig on the spit and breathed in the delicious aroma, songs were sung, stories were told and everyone had time for a little merriment before they went back to the general miseries of pre-colonial life. And thus, the idea behind the backyard barbeque was born!

Lesson #2 -The Business of Barbeque...

Around the year of 1900, barbeque restaurants started poppin’ up all over the place. Now these places weren’t pretty. The typical barbeque shack was constructed of a concrete floor, tin roof and tin walls. And that was everything they needed and nothin’ they didn’t. There was no need for a sign on the buildin’ ‘cause the pig on the spit out front said it all. Because a pig on a spit requires a watchful eye, most “pit men,” as they called themselves ran their restaurants only on the weekends when they could step away from life on the farm for more than a moo-cow’s minute. At first, the weekend crowds would sometimes eat in, but most often take out. Then, with Henry Ford’s big invention (that would be the automobile for all you under-a-rock types), the “Sunday Drive” became part of the Sunday ritual. And with the Sunday drive, came a stop at a local restaurant. And after barrelling down the country roads at 25 miles an hour for hours on end, the drivers and their passengers liked to get out and stretch their legs so eating in eventually became the thing to do. That’s when stools and tables were added and these “barbeque joints” became closer to the kind we have at Q.

Lesson #3 - “The secret’s in the sauce"

The one thing that separated the really good barbeque cooks from the run-of-the-mill were their sauces. Folks would come from far and wide to get barbeque from a shack with a really good sauce, even if there was already a shack with just a so-so sauce in their own backyard. (Some things never change.) The ingredients in these crowd-pleasin’ sauces were often well-kept family secrets. And if you let the cat out of the bag on your family’s barbeque sauce secrets, well you’d best start packin’ your Louis Vitton and headin’ for the door. East coast cooks used more vinegar in their sauce and those in the central southern states liked a sauce with plenty o’ sweet tomato tang and the Texans, well they liked the kind of heat in their sauce that only a small but mighty little pepper called the jalapeno could bring. The ability to incorporate just the right mix of sweetness and tang was considered a true talent. Even today, there remains a mysterious science surrounding the sauce – and it’s not only about getting the flavours right but also what the sauce does to the meat itself. In Colonial days when times were tough and the settlers had to round up the pigs they had previously released into the wild they for din-din, only the right sauce could tenderize the otherwise stringy meat of these semi-wild hogs. The same was true for all those handsome traveling cowboys whose pretty faces didn’t always guarantee them the most tender cut of meat – the right sauce and the right amount of time over the coals could take a tough, old slab o’meat from edible to positively succulent.