Opinion » Maxed Out

Weekend of the Holy Trinity

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Some food is good for you. Some is just good. And some is, well, dangerous. Barbeque is dangerous.

But it's not just food. Barbeque is religion. Barbeque is life. Barbeque is the archetypal example of doing more with less. Barbeque is the finest end a bad cut of meat can ever hope to achieve. Barbeque is passionate food. Barbeque is fun food.

And for the 10th time in as many years, the epicentre of barbeque — at least Canadian barbeque, assuming that's not a complete oxymoron — is right here in Whistler... at Creekside... where, in the storied annals of Whistler cuisine, it all began.

This weekend, the eponymous if unimaginatively named August Long Weekend, is barbeque weekend, the Canadian National BBQ Championship weekend, to be exact. And if anything can be considered sacred in my secular world, the trinity of rub, smoke and holy sauce would certainly come closest. Had the church of my youth served up ribs instead of those tasteless wafers I might have believed the whole body of Christ thing and become a man of the cloth... napkin.

Because barbeque is the one true food of gods. And like so many religious creation myths, its origins are best left to true believers to argue over. No one knows with any certainty from whence it sprung. The West Indies have a claim, at least etymologically speaking, and even the French, as with all things culinary, have muddied the waters with a spurious assertion that 'barbe a queue' — meaning from head to tail — was where the name, if not the technique, originated. As with most historical references, the French conveniently overlook the fact the phrase 'barbe a queue' never referenced a culinary event until after the French Revolution and then only to describe the hysterical desecration of corpses of the nobility who were, head to tail, distributed to the starving masses who'd had enough of eating cake.

And while the very august Oxford English Dictionary settles the origins of the word somewhere in Haiti, I'm confident the organizing rule of international law — use it or lose it — can be successfully applied to refute any claim whatever puppet government looting Haiti these days might mount. Besides, no one in his right mind with any tastebuds left would claim jerk chicken as anything but a bastard child of real barbeque.

That pretty much leaves the origins of barbeque mired somewhere in the murky, feudal South, as in Southern United States. It is no coincidence barbeque came into full flower in the South. The South had the three key ingredients that go into making barbeque: pigs, a good appetite and indentured black men who had no choice but to spend their already hot, sweaty days cooking in an even hotter, smoky shack while their owners inbred, argued the merits of thoroughbred horses and sipped cool drinks in the shade of magnolia trees. Given an abundance of swine, slaves, hot, languorous days and a society organized around throwing gay parties, there really is no place other than the South where barbeque had a chance of taking root.

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