Friday, January 20, 2006

What the heck is barbeque, barbecue, BBQ?

I grew up with a strong sense of barbeque. Barbeque was, of course, slow cooked pork served on a bun with vinegar based sauce. I didn't question this "fact of life," because it was "fact" in this area. If you asked for barbeque, you knew what you were getting.

The first time I questioned my definition was when I moved to Texas. I ordered barbeque. The waitress brought out a huge plate of beef ribs smothered in tomato sauce.

I said, "What's this?"

The waitress said, "Barbecue. Wasn't that what you ordered?"

I covered well (I think). I said, "Yep. And, it sure looks good."

This was over 20 years ago, and I remember it like yesterday. The ribs were good, but they were ribs to my way of thinking. This was a date, and I would not order ribs on a date. They are a might messy. I try to order neat meals on a date. No spaghetti. No ribs. Not when you're trying to look cool and impress a guy. I had my work cut out for me and quite by surprise.

I don't think I ordered BBQ again the entire time I lived in Texas. It's not that I don't like Texas BBQ beef ribs, but I do like to know what's coming when I order food. I did learn to say "OK" to putting my stuff in a "sack." Around here, a sack is a big burlap sack for potatoes. In Texas, they just mean a paper bag. I turned down sacks for a while until I figured out they just wanted to put my purchases in a paper bag. I was thinking they ran out of bags there for a bit and didn't want a sack to store in my small apartment. After a while, I got that down. But, I neverdid catch on to barbeque that didn't come neatly on a bun. When I saw the word barbecue in Texas, I was quite confused. Kansas further added to my confusion, but that's another story.

To further complicate matters, some of my northern friends (years later) invited me to a barbecue. I was thinking pig again, and they had hamburgers. Whew. That was odd (back then). I finally figured out that my northern buddies called anything grilled out barbeque. They were using the word as a verb (what I'd call grilling) while I used it as a noun (chopped pork on a bun). At least, those burgers were on a bun and not messy to eat like the Texas BBQ ribs. I love grilled burgers and cook up some great ones. I've got some great tips for burgers if that's your idea of BBQ.

Now I understand that barbeque is a mixed bag. And, I'm old and worldly enough that I'll flat out ask what folks are talking about. I do love all kinds of barbeque, barbecue, or BBQ. I do, however, like to know what to expect. It is rather a shock to think I'm getting pork on a bun and then to get ribs or to think I'm going to a pig roast and find out that it's going to be hot dogs on the grill. On the flip side, I know to let folks know (from other parts of the country) that if they are in these parts and ordering barbeque that they'll be getting chopped pork with slaw served on a bun or white bread. It's fun, in fact, to not say and watch the expressions, but I like to be a kind person. Our local barbeque is rather an acquired taste I'd say, so I'm usually one to step up to the plate and explain the local customs.

Folks in the south take barbecue pretty seriously and don't play around with the words. If you tell a southerner they're getting barbeque, then they are going to be shocked if you give them ribs or grilled chicken. They aren't trying to be difficult. They are just being southern.


Colleen Kayter said...

Well, now I'm hungry. It's 4:45 in the morning here and I want some barbeque.

About 4 years back, an outfit named 'Clayton Shurley's' opened a take-out near my office. I ordered the BBQ Pork Sandwich (yep, it's got the slaw and comes on a bleached-flour white bun) and that's what I'm craving. Good homemade slaw. The kind where the cabbage crunches because it's fresh. Okay, I'll do lunch there. I don't think they're open for breakfast.

I do enjoy BBQ Pork Ribs and BBQ Pork Roast (some days you just don't need a bun and vegetables). Funny, out here on the Left Coast, you never see BBQ or barbeque on the menu as a noun. It's always a modifier describing how something was prepared. So it's followed by beef, pork, or lamb. Yet the same folks, when describing fish prepared the same way, will say it is 'grilled.' I guess the sauce makes the difference.

I don't know if they still do it, but I used to drive 30 miles to the Hard Rock Cafe for "Watermelon Babyback Pork Ribs." One needs to remember being in a restaurant. Licking the sauce off the plate is considered rude.

I couldn't imagine being able to blog on a daily basis about barbeque. But then, I'm not from the south.

Great blog! I'll be watching for more.

CA said...

Haven't seen the watermelon babyback ribs, but I'll sure keep an eye out. Sounds like something I'd like since I love both ribs and watermelon.

Don't know if I'll write every day or always about BBQ. Probably will do a lot of southern rambling as well (-:

Thanks for stopping by. Now I know I'm not talking only to myself.

Colleen Kayter said...

Thank you soooo much for turning me on to! I set up my blog today (hosted on my own site). Major checkmark on the TO DO list. LOL

Cracked up about you and sacks in Texas. My dad's from Ten Broeck, near Ft. Payne, Alabama. After a visit to friends there, my stepmom said she almost hurt herself laughing when the wife asked the husband if he could 'carry' her to the store. I too got this sudden image of a piggyback ride.

But hey, in the northeast, they stand "on" line, not "in" line for a movie; out here, someone asks how far it is to a certain place and we reply by asking what time of day they are going there (we measure distance in terms of how long it will take to get there and that is very relative to the time of day).

I'm now going to head over to see what I need to make Beer Butt Chicken. Have a great day (well, what's left of it anyway).


CA said...

Terrific Colleen! I'm so glad you like the space. I checked several, and I thought this one worked the best (for me anyway).

All those differnt ways with words from different areas are so funny. Every time I would tell my Grandma I needed to pick up soda, she would ask if a bee stung me. Strange? She thought I meant baking soda. I meant soda like Pepsi. She'd call that pop. If I needed a special trip for baking soda, then she figured a bee stung me.

Yep. You've got to try the Beer Butt Chicken. You can use soda if you want (-: Either way, it's some heap good chicken!