By G.D. Maxwell
With the heat of summer having arrived, if for ever so short a visit, and with an incipient scandal or not brewing at Muni Hall, faithful readers may be forgiven for assuming Id wade into things with my usual high regard for getting my facts straight. Im not. But rest assured, J.J.s on the case and will surely get to the bottom, or at least the muddy middle, of such matters.
This weekend though, is barbecue weekend and if anything can be considered sacred in my secular world, the trinity of rub, smoke and holy sauce would certainly come closest. I wouldnt be surprised, in fact, that had the church of my youth served up ribs instead of body wafers I might today be a man of the cloth napkin.
If barbecue be the one true food of gods, its irony surely lies in the murky underworld of its origins. No one knows with any certainty where it all began. 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 As with most historical references, the French conveniently overlook the fact the phrase "barbe a queue" never referenced a culinary event until after the French Revolution and then only to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 whod had enough of eating cake.
And while the very august Oxford English Dictionary settles the origins of the word somewhere in Haiti, Im 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 barbecue.
That pretty much leaves the origins of barbecue mired somewhere in the murky, feudal South, as in Southern United States. As an aside, barbecue in Whistler can, quite accurately, trace its short roots back to the phoenix-like resurrection of Dustys a scant five years ago this autumn.
It is no coincidence barbecue came into full flower in the South. The South had the three key ingredients that go into making barbecue: lotsa 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 massas inbred, argued the merits of thoroughbred horses and sipped cool drinks in the shade of magnolia trees. Given lotsa pigs, lotsa slaves, lotsa time, and a society organized around throwing gay parties, there really is no place else in the world other than the South where barbecue had a chance of taking root.