Americans enjoy reading about barbecue almost as much as they love eating it. Books on the subject cover almost every aspect of the topic: recipes, grilling tips, restaurant guides, pitbuilding instructions, and catalogs of exotic variants such as Mongolian barbecue and Indian tandoor cooking. Despite this coverage, the history of barbecue in the United States has until now remained virtually untold. Even the best books on barbecue devote little more than a page or two to barbecue before 1900. But barbecue has a long, rich history?a history that formerly could be found only through scattered references in old letters, journals, newspapers, diaries, and travel narratives. Barbecue: The History of an American Institution draws on all these sources to tell the story of barbecue from its origins among Native Americans through its present status as an icon of American culture. This is the story not just of a dish but of a social institution that reflects and helped shape many regional cultures of the United States. The story begins with the importation of pigs by European explorers in the 15th century, moves to the adoption of barbecuing techniques from Native Americans in the 16th and 17th centuries, and is carried through to barbecue's growing popularity at the end of the 20th century. Although barbecue has a long tradition in the Caribbean, South America, and other parts of the world, which this book touches on, the primary focus is on barbecue in the United States and the "Barbecue Belt," stretching from Virginia through the Carolinas and the Deep South to Texas, and including Kentucky, Tennessee, and Missouri (most notably, Kansas City).
Robert F. Moss is a food-and-drinks writer and culinary historian living in Charleston, South Carolina. He is the Contributing Barbecue Editor for Southern Living, the Southern Food Correspondent for Serious Eats, and, with Hanna Raskin of the Post and Courier, the cohost of "The Winnow," a podcast about dining in the South.