A Short History of Barbecue in America
by Jim Auchmutey
Pub Date 01 Jun 2019
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Barbecue: It’s America in a mouthful. The story of barbecue touches almost every aspect of our history. It involves indigenous culture, the colonial era, slavery, the Civil War, the settling of the West, the coming of immigrants, the Great Migration, the rise of the automobile, the expansion of suburbia, the rejiggering of gender roles. It encompasses every region and demographic group. It is entwined with our politics and tangled up with our race relations.
Jim Auchmutey follows the delicious and contentious history of barbecue in America from the ox roast that celebrated the groundbreaking for the U.S. Capitol building to the first barbecue launched into space almost two hundred years later. The narrative covers the golden age of political barbecues, the evolution of the barbecue restaurant, the development of backyard cooking, and the recent rediscovery of traditional barbecue craft. Along the way, Auchmutey considers the mystique of barbecue sauces, the spectacle of barbecue contests, the global influences on American barbecue, the roles of race and gender in barbecue culture, and the many ways barbecue has been portrayed in our art and literature. It’s a spicy story that involves noted Americans from George Washington and Abraham Lincoln to Louis Armstrong, Elvis Presley, Martin Luther King Jr., and Barack Obama.
"I've read just about every barbecue book there is. I have thought that I've readjust about every part and parcel of barbecue history, myth, and arcana, but Jim Auchmutey's Smokelore shares tales and tidbits that I've never come across. Auchmutey writes with wit, taste, and a knack for good storytelling."
—Rien Fertel, author of The One True Barbecue: Fire, Smoke, and the Pitmasters Who Cook the Whole Hog
"With years of learning (worn lightly), heaps of quirky facts, sprightly and engaging prose, and page after page of delightful illustrations, Smokelore is a major contribution to barbecultural studies. My only reservation is the author's annoying failure to capitalize Southern and Southerner."
—John Shelton Reed, author of Barbecue: A Savor the South Cookbook
"With Smokelore, Jim Auchmutey marvelously guides us through the fascinating, wonderous world of American barbecue-its colorful past, its vibrant presence, and glimpses of its global future. Auchmutey is a skillful storyteller who does much to sort out fact from fiction about what we now know about barbecue. Smokelore is essential reading for anyone seeking a comprehensive, well-illustrated, and enjoyable look at barbecue culture in the United States."
—Adrian Miller, James Beard Award-winning author and certified barbecue judge
"Jim Auchmutey's barbecue education has been a lifelong endeavor. Fortunately for the rest of us, he's sharing the unvarnished history of America's native cuisine in Smokelore. He uses our relationship with barbecue as a lens to explore American values, both virtuous and vile. While there's more to this book than meat cooked over fire, Auchmutey has left plenty on the bone for us all to sink our teeth into."
—Daniel Vaughn, barbecue editor of Texas Monthly
"From eighteenth-century political events to the lines at twenty-first-century Korean barbecue food trucks, Smokelore offers a brief but comprehensive and eminently readable look at one of America's enduring culinary obsessions. The lavishly illustrated tome spreads a Rabelaisian feast of information for the novice and expert alike that you'll want to dip into again and again."
—Jessica B. Harris, author of High on the Hog: A Culinary Journey from Africa to America
"Barbecue has a backstory that's as big as America. Smokelore tells that tale entertainingly. This book really captures the fun and colorful history of our true national food."
—Carolyn Wells, cofounder of the Kansas City Barbeque Society
"Smokelore is a feast for the eyes, extensively illustrated with color photographs, menus, and advertisements that capture the vibrant history of American barbecue."
—Robert Moss, Southern Living
"Auchmutey brings a scholar's nose for research to Smokelore, but his conversational tone and playful tangents make it an entertaining and enlightening read. Where else would you find a lengthy barbecue playlist that includes Elvin Bishop's 'Barbecue Boogie,' Bo Carter's 'Pig Meat Is What I Crave' and Outkast's 'Skew It on the Bar-B'?"
—Suzanne Van Atten, Atlanta Journal-Constitution
"Beautifully illustrated with a riot of barbecue memorabilia and including a few solid recipes, Smokelore is a must-have for anybody who cares about the 'cue. In other words, pretty much all y'all."
—Chuck Reece, The Bitter Southerner