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Is your barbecue racist? The Guardian would like to know

6 July 2015

5:47 PM

6 July 2015

5:47 PM

Earlier this year the Guardian vetoed HP sauce for its readers on the grounds that it is the sauce of the establishment. In May, the newspaper then went on to criticise tea drinkers, who exhibit ‘the worst possible English trait, up there with colonialism and the class system’.

Now, it’s time to step away from the fire lighters, put the skewers down and ignore the impulse to put HP sauce on your charcoal grilled meats, as barbecues are now facing the heat. According to the Guardian, the barbecue ‘has its roots in the cooperation between black and indigenous peoples struggling to get or keep their freedom from colonialists’. As Michael W Twitty, a culinary historian, explains:

‘Barbecue is a form of cultural power and is intensely political, with a culture of rules like no other American culinary tradition: sauce or no sauce; which kind of sauce; chopped or not chopped; whole animal or just ribs or shoulders. And, if America is about people creating new worlds based on rebellion against oppression and slavery, then barbecue is the ideal dish: it was made by enslaved Africans with inspiration and contributions from Native Americans struggling to maintain their independence.’

If anything, both in etymology and culinary technique, barbecue is as African as it is Native American and European, though enslaved Africans have largely been erased from the modern story of American barbecue. At best, our ancestors are seen as mindless cooking machines who prepared the meat under strict white supervision, if at all; at worst, barbecue was something done “for” the enslaved, as if they were being introduced to a novel treat.’


The ‘cultural power’ is ‘seasoned and flavoured by the people who could not enjoy any freedom’:

‘Barbecue is now widely recognized as a staple of the American culinary canon – so much so that at least three national holidays (Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day) are associated with it. Barbecue is laced with the aspiration of freedom, but it was seasoned and flavored by the people who could not enjoy any freedom on Independence Day for almost a century.’

Tea, HP sauce and now barbecues. It’s probably best if all readers stick to a strict kale-only diet for the foreseeable in order to avoid altercations with the PC brigade.


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