Barbecuing: A Tradition That Lives On…

Whilst many people are just excited for a few months of good weather and some great food; there are a few of us out there who are interested in knowing a bit more about this tradition. Where did it first start? What does it mean? Why did it get so popular? Why has it stuck around until 2013? We’ll try and answer all of those questions to the best of our knowledge (but remember, we aren’t experts, just enthusiasts!)

As a true British Citizen, I can tell you a few things for sure: I love the three weeks of sunshine we get a year and I love spending that time gathered around a barbecue with friends. I have no doubt that a load of other Brits are nodding their head in agreement with me – maybe even drooling at the thought of some grilled steak – calm yourself.


Where did the term barbecue originally come from?

This is quite a highly contested question with no 100% correct answer/s. However, there are many plausible theories, but one stands out more than the others as can be seen from the below points:

  • The word “barbecue” was actually derived from a Spanish word often used by countries in the Caribbean Sea – “barbacoa”. This term actually referred to the framework / structure that was used in the cooking or smoking of meat; as such it slowly became associated with what we know barbecuing as nowadays.
  • According to the renowned OED (Oxford English Dictionary), the word barbecue or barbeque has been linked back to Haiti as far back as the 16th Century, which closely links with the above point.
  • Many people believe that the French term “barbe à queue” which means from head (or beard to toe) has developed into barbeque over time. This may only be a possibility for those cooking entire animals over a BBQ – hence “from head to toe” of the animal
  • Other sources reckon that the most likely explanation of this word coming to term is simply from indigenous people adopting the phrase during the colonial period which originated with “barbacoa”.
BBQ Family

There are other theories put forth by magazines and online entities – but these are all a bit far-fetched and quite frankly we’d be wasting your time even explaining them. We’re more than happy to believe that the term evolved from “barbacoa” as it seems to be the most well documented and likely, since the area it originated from was notorious for barbecuing; unlike the French.


Barbecue Slang – Barbie, BBQ or Barbeque?

Realistically, there’s no right answer; it’s all dependent upon where you’re from and what you were taught from a young age. Regardless of how it’s spelt, it shouldn’t really make a huge difference.

Again, we’re going to refer to the Oxford English Dictionary – they state that barbecue is the correct spelling with a common misspelling actually being “barbeque”. However, this is contradicted by Mirriam Webster (a publishing company renowned for dictionaries) since they list it as an alternative spelling…

Not confusing enough for you yet? Good. There are also truncations of the word, most commonly BBQ which is used often in shorthand and advertising and “bar-b-que” or “bar-b-q” – for unknown reasons. We can only hazard a guess that it’s similar to a form of text talk…

If you’re from Australia or enjoy sounding like you’re from Oz, then maybe you’ll be more familiar with “barbie” – not the doll, just the slang for barbecue. However, if you’re from South Africa a barbecue is simply known as a braai.

Now onto the topic at hand; why are we still barbecuing nowadays when there are alternative, more ‘modern’ ways to cook our food? And why is it still so popular? It’s not as if only a few people in the country barbecue – in fact, statistics show that the majority of families (over 90%) attend a barbecue every year at the very least.


So, WHY is barbecuing so popular?

Whilst barbecuing can be linked back to age-old times when cavemen would light up a fire and cook their latest catch over it – we have advanced and evolved, yet the barbecue is still with us. Although the barbecue has also come leaps and bounds since those times; the essence of a BBQ is still the same and that’s possibly what draws us [humans] to it; a link back to our roots, a nod at the caveman inside us.

But it’s not just this relationship with our primitive selves that make barbecuing as widespread as it is today. Not at all, in fact, there are a lot of reasons – some obvious and some less so:

  • The taste of barbecued or smoked food is believed by many people to be unrivalled by any form of cooking. Even if you have a top chef like Gordon Ramsey cooking you favourite slab of meat on the most expensive cooker in the world, people will still prefer a barbecued steak. Is the taste truly superior? That’s for you to decide. We personally believe that grilled food is on a different level to other types of cooking; it’s unique and that’s what we love about it.
  • A barbecue is a cause for a celebration or vice versa. People love a reason to celebrate, even if it’s just for the sake that we’re having a bit of sun or there’s a football match on, we’re easily pleased people.
  • It’s a reason to gather and socialise in a relaxed setting without making a huge dent in your wallet. Arguably you could go to a restaurant, but that usually costs considerably more than a BBQ – or, you could host a dinner party yourself, but that usually incurs a lot of stress which detracts from the fun.
  • Don’t forget that some people consider barbecuing to be a hobby. Like every other hobby out there, it takes time, it takes practice and you can constantly get better and better at it. Perfecting recipes and trying out new things are just some of the things you might find yourself doing on the grill!

Hopefully this quick list makes it easy to see why barbecuing has stayed with us all these years and why it’s still such a popular method of cooking. Now you’ve brushed up on a bit of reading for the day, get outside and start up the gas barbecue – who knows, it might slowly become your hobby…!