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Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Mystery of Virginia's Hot Potato

17th century Virginia Indian vegetables, no potatoes

In 1621, two years after being selected to be the first speaker of the Virginia House of Burgesses, John Pory was invited to a feast as the guest of king Ekeeks chief of the Onancock Indian tribe that lived in what is now Accomack, Virginia. He was fed, among other things, roasted oysters and "batata" (Spanish word for sweet potatoes). John didn't like the sweet potatoes because one burned his mouth as he bit into it without letting it first cool down to a safe temperature.

After that experience Pory reportedly said, "I would not give a farthing for a shipload." While sweet potatoes and potatoes are both "new world" foods, potatoes were first introduced in the colonies from a shipment to Virginia via Bermuda in 1621 rather than through trade with Indians, or so it has been thought. This is because no other Englishman mentions Virginia Indians eating potatoes or sweet potatoes in the early 17th century.

And, while we are discussing potatoes, let's discuss what we know first before we get into what we don't know. First, sweet potatoes are a completely different plant species than white potatoes. Sweet potatoes belong to the Convolvulaceae family which is known by its scientific name of Ipomoea batatas and also includes several varieties of morning glories that you may have growing in your flower garden. White potatoes, like Russets for example, are part of the Solanaceae family of plants belonging to the nightshade group. Yams are also another completely different species as well. Yams are monocots and are related to lilies and grasses and are native to Africa and Asia.

Potatoes and sweet potatoes were originally domesticated in the area of southern Peru and northwestern Bolivia around 7,000–10,000 years ago. Seventeenth century Spaniards would have referred to potatoes as "patata" and sweet potatoes as "batata". In fact, the English word "potato" is derived from "patata." You say patata I say batata, that's what it was all about in the 17th century. The Spanish probably got both first from the natives that lived in South and Central America and took them back to Europe with them in the 16th century.

So, how did sweet potatoes show up in 1621 on the table (figuratively speaking) of a Virginia Indian king and why were the Algonquin speaking Indians of Virginia using a non-Algonquin word? It's the mystery of Virginia's hot potato that needs to be solved!

On a side note, how potatoes arrived in Europe has never really been well understood. For over 200 years the "official" story was that potatoes were brought into Ireland by Sir Walter Raleigh who got them from Virginia. In fact, the Irish used to call them "Virginia potatoes." Again, this is doubtful as potatoes were not grown in Virginia in the 16th century as far as anyone can tell. Some now believe that Sir Frances Drake picked up potatoes while sailing around the coast of South America before picking up colonists from Roanoke Island around 1585 and brought them back to Ireland.

Muddying the waters more is the fact that in 1600, John Pory translated, edited, and published A Geographical Historie of Afirca, written in Arabicke and Italian by John Leo, a More, borne in Granada and brought up in Barbarie. In that work, Pory translated a passage and used the word "batata" saying it was from the West Indies. "They have good sustenance also by meanes of a root, called there Igname, but in the west Indies Batata." While the original author (or even Pory) could have been confusing yams with sweet potatoes just like we do today, the fact remains that the word "batata" was not unknown to Pory in 1621. Yet, he, supposedly, speaks of it in 1621 as though it was the first encounter he had with it. So, the questions around this event include:

1.) Is King Ekeeks' "batata" really sweet potato?

2.) Is John Pory relating a truthful account of the feast or did he embellish it?

3.) If "batata" is sweet potato, why didn't the other Englishmen like Smith, Clayton, Spelman, and Strachey mention them as they actually lived with Virginia Indians in the 17th century?

4.) Did king Ekeeks serve some other root or tuber that is native to Virginia and called it "batata" because he had learned the word from other European explorers and wanted to impress Pory?

5.) Did Pory misunderstand an Algonquin word that sounds like "batata"?

If Pory's account is accurate, and the "batata" he mentioned is in fact sweet potatoes, in all likelihood the Onancock Indians traded for them from the Spanish when they visited Virginia in the late 16th century and, for some reason, they didn't share them with other Indians in Virginia.

That is the story of Virginia's hot potato mystery. For some reason, it makes me hungry for sweet potato casserole.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Colonial Virginia Law Against Discharging Firearms at Barbecues: A Myth

There is an often repeated claim made in several books about barbecue that in the 17th century the Virginia House of Burgesses passed a law outlawing the discharging of firearms at barbecues. The accounts mentioned in the various books vary only on the date of the establishment of the law. Some authors say the law was established in 1610, another says it was 1650, another says "the 1600s," another 1690, others say "the 17th century." While it's true that Virginians did cook barbecue in the 17th century and they did own firearms, a look through the laws established in Virginia in the 17th century does not validate the claim that there was a law that specifically outlawed firing guns at barbecue events.

The first law against discharging firearms established by the House of Burgesses was made in 1623. The purpose of the law was to conserve gun powder; "The commander of any plantation do either himselfe or suffer others to spend powder unnecessarily in drinking or entertainments, &c." In 1624 the law was expanded to prevent the discharge of firearms on Sundays or at parties except for weddings and funerals. The reason given was that a gun shot was chosen as the alarm that Indians were attacking and they didn't want false alarms. It's easy to see why the colonists were so nervous in 1624 when you think about the Indian attack in 1622 that killed 347, more than one fourth, of the colonists.

As to the claim that the law against the discharge of firearms was established in 1610 by Virginia's House of Burgesses, that is impossible. The first meeting of Virginia's House of Burgesses was held at Jamestown, then called James City, on July 30, 1619. A record of the proceedings comes down to us in an account written by speaker John Pory. Twenty two members comprised the first Assembly. John Pory was selected to be the speaker and John Twin chosen to be the clerk.

To sum things up, while it was impossible for the law against discharging firearms at barbecues to be established by the House of Burgesses before 1619 and while no law specifically referred to barbecues, you could make the claim that it was illegal to discharge firearms at barbecues because only weddings and funerals were excluded from the law and both of those were excuses to throw a barbecue. The impact of the law actually made allowances for discharging firearms at barbecues as long as the occasion was a wedding or funeral rather than outlawing the act on such occasions.

Virginia colonists were the first to establish a representative legislature in colonial America. As a result, Virginia was also the first to develop a system of standing committees for the transaction of business. The standing committee system that developed in Virginia was carried over to the federal government Congress and is still in use today.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Sage Wisdom From Pitmaster Ed Mitchell

Ed Mitchell, "the Pope of Barbecue" from Wilson, North Carolina, sums it up best:

"Cooking barbecue is a craft handed down from generations to generations. I like cooking barbecue this way because it’s something to hold on to that hasn't been tarnished yet. It allows all of us to interact. Barbecue was one of the things that held the tension down during the race movement in the 1960s. When there was... a barbecue, it did not matter who you were, the only thing that could settle any issue would be having a pig picking. It’s a feasting time, a festive time. Nobody's upset or mad and there's no other dish that powerful. And don't ask me why because I don't know. Maybe there's a connection with the Bible -- prodigal son went away, and when he came back they said, 'Surely kill us a calf' and roasted it barbecue-style." (Holy Smoke – The Big Book of North Carolina Barbecue)

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Origin of Brunswick Stew - An Authentic 19th Century Recipe

Old Virginia Brunswick Stew

“We crossed the stream upon a shaking plank laid from bank to bank, and strolled down the slope to the scene of operations. An immense kettle was swung over a fire of logs that were so many living coals. The smell of Brunswick stew had been wafted to us while we leaned on the fence. A young man, who had the reputation of being an epicure, to the best of his knowledge and ability, superintended the manufacture of the famous delicacy. “Two dozen chickens went into it!” he assured us. “They wanted to make me think it couldn’t be made without green corn and fresh tomatoes. I knew a trick worth two of that. I have worked it before with dried tomatoes and dried sweet corn soaked overnight.” He smacked his lips and winked fatuously.”

This brief account of an 1844 barbecue held in Richmond, Virginia describes a scene that was typical of such events in the nineteenth century. Smoke lingering in the tops of trees, the enticing aroma of roasting meat in the air and the large kettle of simmering “barbecue stew” was a scene repeated over and over again all across the American South. The phrase “barbecue stew” refers not to a stew made of barbecued meats. Rather, it is a stew that was (and still is) traditionally cooked and served along with barbecue and it differs from region to region.

For the rest of the article and the recipe, navigate over to the Smoke Signals Barbecue Magazine site and check out the latest issue 13. In it I discuss the origins of Brunswick Stew, the modern Brunswick Stew rivalry between Virginia and Georgia, and the recipe for an authentic, 19th century Virginia Brunswick stew.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Three Sisters that Saved Jamestown

Potomac Salad

When the English arrived at Virginia in 1607, they found a vast wilderness inhabited by Native Americans who had lived in the land of Tsenacomoco (the Native American name for the tidewater region of Virginia; a.k.a. the coastal plain that is east of the fall line) for centuries. The English arrived thinking that they could thrive in the "new world" by replicating English towns and English farms growing English foods. After the Starving Time of 1609 - 1610 where most of them died of starvation and disease, they realized just how wrong they were. Under the leadership of John Smith, the English began to learn that the key to survival in the "new world" was to adopt the ways of the native people that were thriving. That meant that the English would have to learn the ways of the "salvages."

A Patawomeck Pot traded to an English
Colonist. Analysis shows that a maize and
venison stew was the last food cooked in
it before it was discarded by the
colonist after his "Indian" meal.
Over the first three decades of English settlement in Virginia, the efforts of the Powhatan Indians saved the English colonists from death and starvation. The Patawomeck Tribe that established villages along the Potomac river in Virginia were particularly key to English survival. Many accounts of the early English colonists tell of the corn (maize), beans, and squash the Patawomecks supplied to the English saving them from starvation.

The 2009 United States Native American
$1 Coin Depicting a Native American
Woman Tending to a Milpa.
Today, the three crops of maize, beans, and squash are known as the three sisters. The Native Americans of the Southwest called their fields of maize, beans, and squash "milpas." Scientists have since learned that those three important foods grown together in the same garden complement each other; each providing benefits helpful to the other two. In the estimation of H. Garrison Wilkes, a maize researcher at the University of Massachusetts in Boston, the milpa “is one of the most successful human inventions ever created.” Corn provided a natural pole for the bean vines to climb. Beans trapped nitrogen on their roots thus improving the overall fertility of the soil by providing nitrogen for next year's corn. The bean vines also helped stabilize the corn plants making them less vulnerable to blowing over in the wind. Shallow-rooted squash vines served the same purpose as mulch shading emerging weeds and preventing soil moisture from evaporating which improved the overall crop's chances of survival. The Patawomeck method of inter-planting corn, beans and squash in the same mounds is still a sophisticated and sustainable system for small gardens that provides long-term soil fertility and a healthy diet. And, today, corn (maize) is the most important crop in the world.

This Thanksgiving, take a look at your table. There is still much Patawomeck and Powhatan Indian influence at work even today. The turkey, corn (maize), beans, squash and pumpkin and North American varieties of nuts were all foods that the Natives of Tsenacomoco taught the English to hunt, grow, cook, and enjoy. There is no question that the three sisters saved Jamestown from disaster. And, the importance of those three foods are seen today more than ever.

To celebrate Thanksgiving this year, I decided to create a dish that, I think, captures the food preferences of both the English and the Natives of the 17th century. I call it "Potomac Salad." It is a dish with Patawomeck Native American ingredients seasoned with ingredients like the English would have used.

Potomac Salad

1 medium sized butternut squash
1 15.5 ounce can of kidney beans, rinsed
1 15.5 ounce can corn, drained
Bacon Fat, warmed until liquefied
Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV)
1 Tsp Dijon Mustard
1/2 medium sized red onion cut into thin strips
Salt & Pepper to taste
Pinch of ground cayenne pepper (optional; but I have strong reason to believe the English colonists in 17th century Virginia would have used it often instead of black pepper)

Peel and cut the squash into about 1" cubes. Reserve the seeds. Toss the squash with salt and pepper and a little bacon fat (Virginia smoked pork). Toss the seeds with a little bacon fat too. Roast the squash and seeds in a 350 F degree oven turning them once or twice until done. The seeds should be done in about 15 - 20 minutes. The squash should be done in about 30 minutes.

Make a vinaigrette using 4 TBS of bacon fat, 4 TBS of ACV, the mustard, salt, pepper, and cayenne. Add the corn, beans, roasted squash, onion, and vinaigrette to a skillet and heat over medium heat until hot. Use the seeds as garnish and serve as a side or by itself over mixed greens.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Carolina's First Female Pitmaster

Tuffy Stone, Mellisa Cookston, & Myron Mixon at the 2013 Barbecue Jamboree
in Fredericksburg, VA. Move Over Boys, the Ladies of Barbecue are Rising Fast!

Today, women are excelling in the barbecue world. No longer can it truly be said that the grill and the barbecue pit are the sole domains of the male gender. Women like Mellisa Cookston, Lee Ann Whippen, and Danielle Dimovski, and so many others have made a respectable mark on the modern and formerly male dominated activity of cooking barbecue. So, in honor of that, here is the earliest known account of a Carolina pitmaster who also happens to be a woman.

In 1709, John Lawson's A New Voyage to Carolina was published in London. In it, Lawson provides accounts of his exploration of the interior of Carolina in 1700 and 1701. The book contains accounts of native Americans, the natural history of the Carolina region, and a long list of words in various Carolina Indian dialects. The first part of the book contains Lawson's journal, followed by separate sections devoted to a description of North Carolina geography, produce, insects, animals, and fish, and of the Indians. Lawson's book has since come to be regarded as a classic of early American literature.

Lawson's account of arriving at the Waxsaw Landlord's cabin is of particular interest to barbecue buffs. At the time of his arrival, preparations were being made for a great feast among the Indians in commemoration of their abundant harvest of corn they had reaped the summer before. He describes the visiting ambassadors from another tribe, the painted faces, and, the result of English influence on the Indians, at least one of them was armed with a cutlass and a flintlock rifle (fusee).

Besides the Indian men, Lawson also described a woman he observed who was busy cooking. Describing her as a "She-cook" he marveled at how often she cleaned her hands while preparing the feast. This very well could be the first account of a female pitmaster cooking what is now considered American style barbecue in existence. In Lawson's account he describes a "cabin" near an outdoor English style kitchen managed by an Indian woman who cooked "barbakue" and "White-Bread." Couple that with the cutlass and flintlock and it's easy to see the strong influence the English had imparted to those Natives. While Lawson's "She-cook" may not be the first Carolina pitmaster, his account is certainly one of the oldest, if not the oldest, of anyone cooking American style barbecue in history.

At our Waxsaw Landlord's Cabin, was a Woman employ'd in no other Business than Cookery; it being a House of great Resort.  The Fire was surrounded with Roast-meat, or Barbakues, and the Pots continually boiling full of Meat, from Morning till Night.  This She-Cook was the cleanliest I ever saw amongst the Heathens of America, washing her Hands before she undertook to do any Cookery; and repeated this unusual Decency very often in a day.  She made us as White-Bread as any English could have done, and was full as neat, and expeditious, in her Affairs.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Don't Wash Your Chicken!

Researchers at Drexel University and New Mexico State University have started a campaign called Don't Wash Your Chicken! "There's no reason, from a scientific point of view, to think you're making it any safer," explains Drexel food safety researcher Jennifer Quinlan, "and in fact, you're making it less safe." Studies back Quinlan up: The only way to kill the bacteria on chicken is to cook it properly.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Barbecue Secret Number 14 - How to Get a Low & Slow Bark on a Hot & Fast Brisket

Blackhawk Brisket

This brisket recipe was inspired by a renowned 19th century Virginia beef barbecue cook named "Blackhawk." Yes, people in Virginia have been barbecuing beef longer than people in any other state including Texas and the tradition goes back to the 17th century. This recipe is my tribute to Blackhawk and all the other great, old time Virginia barbecue cooks that don't get their due.

The biggest problem many have with hot and fast brisket is the bark. The bark on a typical hot and fast brisket just doesn't measure up to the bark of a brisket that has been cooked for 12 to 14 hours at a lower temperature. So, this recipe is my attempt to rectify that situation. I call it Blackhawk brisket.

First, the basics: A good bark is the result of several things going on during the cooking process but one of the most important things is the Maillard reaction. This is where the natural sugars and proteins in the meat begin to brown while cooking. There are several main things that influence this reaction: sugar, protein, heat, and the pH level of the surface of the meat are a few. If you want to read more - try here.  Now, let's get started on how to barbecue a Blackhawk brisket.

Start with a large full packer brisket. I don't usually cook full packer briskets smaller than 12 pounds. Trim it up and remove the excess fat from between the point and the flat. This is done to increase the amount of bark I would have on the burnt ends. Check this post for the details on trimming a brisket. Barbecue Secret Number 11 - How to Trim a Brisket.

For this process to produce the best bark you need to remove all of the silver skin and as much of the fat possible from the top of the brisket flat. Then, using paper towels, dry the top surface of the brisket as much as possible.

Next, instead of keeping the surface of the meat flat and smooth, use a fork to cut some shallow "troughs" in the surface of the meat going in the same direction as the grain as shown in the pic. This is done in order to create more surface area for the bark to adhere to. And, as the great Adam Perry Lang taught us, more meat surface equals more Maillard reaction which means more flavor.

Brisket surface "roughed" up with a fork

The next important part of the process is to use something under the brisket while it cooks that will create a curved or slanted surface. This is important so that juices from the meat don't pool in one spot. The juices pooling will wash the rub off and eliminate any chance of a good bark developing.

Keep the surface of the meat curved to let juices flow off rather than pool.
You can inject the brisket at this point in the process if you choose. Just make sure you let it sit overnight in the refrigerator to let the injection work its magic. After an overnight rest, again use paper towels to dry the surface of the brisket. The overnight rest isn't needed if you don't inject the brisket.

Now, let's deal with the pH level of the meat. Sprinkle the top surface of the brisket with about 3 half pinches (just as much as can be picked up with thumb and forefinger) of baking soda. Yes! That's right! Baking soda! Just a light sprinkle all over the top surface of the brisket is needed. Don't use too much.

After the light sprinkle of baking soda, apply a light coat of peanut oil all over the surface of the meat. The last step in this stage is to apply a light coat of molasses. I use the molasses as the base of the bark. It won't make the meat taste sweet. It just sits in the background and turns to caramel as the meat barbecues.

Brisket with baking soda, oil, and molasses

Now, apply the rub. You can use any rub you like. One of my favorites is my Blackhawk rub and is made from the following:

4 TBS Sea Salt
6 TBS Coarse Ground Black Pepper (16 mesh)
3 TBS Fine Ground Black Pepper
1 TBS Fine Ground Cayenne Pepper
2 TBS Granulated Garlic

Apply the rub all over the surface of the meat. Touch it up, if needed, by sprinkling some fine ground black pepper over the brisket to cover any spots that need it.

While the prepped brisket rests, fire up your smoker to 325 degrees F. I use white oak chunks for smoke. Make sure your fire is burning very clean before adding the meat. The smoke coming from the chimney should almost be a clear vapor.

Put the brisket on the smoker and let it cook for 2 1/2 hours. After 2 1/2 hours, Wrap the brisket with foil but leave some space between the foil and the top of the brisket much like a foil tent.

Blackhawk brisket wrapped in a foil "tent"

Let the brisket continue to cook for about 2 more hours until it probes tender like "butta." I'd say the internal temp will be about 208ish F. But, please don't go by temperature alone. Make sure that if you peirce the meat with your thermometer that it feels like you are putting the thermometer through butter. Once tender, remove the foil and let the brisket rest for 1 hour.

Here are the results. The top pic was cooked using the Blackhawk rub. The 2nd pic was cooked using Smokin' Guns Hot. The burnt end was cooked using Blackhawk rub.

Blackhawk Brisket

Blackhawk Brisket

Blackhawk Brisket Burnt End

Now, there are two main things going on here. The molasses is caramelizing while the surface of the meat is also caramelizing because it is experiencing the Maillard reaction. The baking soda raises the pH level of the surface of the meat. This is important because the higher pH level causes the Maillard reaction to occur quicker which means it will now occur longer than without using the baking soda. This produces a bark that is much closer to a long cook brisket bark than a typical hot and fast cooked brisket.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Great Tip For Removing the Membrane From Ribs

In this video, Greg Rempe of the BBQ Central Radio Show demonstrates how to easily remove the membrane from the back of baby back ribs. It's a great tip and I LOVE the background music!

Pepper Vinegar

Pepper Vinegar

Pepper vinegar is a colonial Virginia condiment. Mary Randolph (Thomas Jefferson's 1st cousin) published the recipe in her 1824 book "The Virginia Housewife." She published many recipes that were regularly used at Monticello in Thomas Jefferson's kitchen.  As the chile peppers in my garden are being harvested now, I decided to make a batch of this tasty treat. In colonial and early 19th century times here in Virginia, they would have used cayenne peppers, fish peppers, or bird peppers. For my version, I used jalapeno peppers. Here is Mary Randolph's recipe and I followed it to the letter.

"Get one dozen pods of pepper when ripe, take out the stems, and cut them in two; put them in a kettle with three pints of vinegar, boil it away to one quart, and strain it through a sieve. A little of this is excellent in gravy of every kind, and gives a flavor greatly superior to black pepper; it is also very fine when added to each of the various catsups for fish sauce."

It isn't as hot or as vinegary as you might expect. It's actually pretty mild and the flavor of the jalapenos really come through.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Sauce for Meat in Colonial America

Here is an excessively long post. But, I think it's significant because I think I am uncovering something about colonial American cuisine that has up to now not been known. Here is the short version.

My original plan was to use the book A Narrative of a Revolutionary Soldier: Some Adventures, Dangers, and Sufferings of Joseph Plumb Martin as a primary source for a book that I am writing.

At first read, I assumed that the sauce the writer was mentioning so much was some sort of vinegar and oil (butter, lard) mixture that the English were so fond of using. But, the passage from page 245 about vinegar piqued my interest and made me reevaluate what I was reading. The writer claims that he only had access to vinegar one time and then only a spoonful. Therefore, he couldn't have been writing about a vinegar based sauce. So, I started comparing the passages that mention "sauce" and came to the conclusion that he must have been referring to vegetables or other side dishes to accompany the meat. That all means that the word "sauce" had a much broader meaning in colonial times than it does today.

I am in discussions over this with some friends who are colonial food experts. We should have some conclusions soon. What say, thee?

Page 246

When in the field, and often while in winter quarters, our usual mode of drawing our provisions, (when we did draw any,) was as follows:—a return being made out for all the officers and men, for seven days, we drew four days of meat, and the whole seven days of flour. At the expiration of the four days, the other three days allowance of beef. Now, dear reader, pray consider a moment, how were five men in a mess, five hearty, hungry young men to subsist four days on twenty pounds of fresh beef, (and I might say, twelve or fifteen pounds,) without any vegetables or any other kind of sauce to eke it out. In the hottest season of the year it was the same; though there was not much danger of our provisions putrefying, we had none on hand long enough for that, if it did, we were obliged to eat it, or go without any thing.

Page 18

I was brought to an allowance of provisions, which, while we lay in New-York was not bad: if there was any deficiency it could in some measure be supplied by procuring some kind of sauce; but I was a stranger to such living; I began soon to miss grandsire’s table and cellar. However, I reconciled myself to my condition as well as I could; it was my own seeking, I had had no compulsion.

Page 28

We continued here some days to guard the flour. We were forbidden by our officers to use any of it, except our daily allowance; we used, however, to purloin some of it to eat and exchange with the inhabitants for milk, sauce, and such small matters as we could get for it, of them.

Page 46

One day, after roll-call, one of my messmates with me, sat off upon a little jaunt into the country to get some sauce of some kind or other. We soon came to a field of English turnips; but the owner was there, and we could not get any of them without paying for them in some way or other. We soon agreed with the man to pull and cut off the tops of the turnips at the halves, until we got as many as we needed. After the good man had sat us to work, and chatted with us a few minutes, he went off and left us. After he was gone, and we had pulled and cut as many as we wanted, we packed them up and decamped, leaving the owner of the turnips to pull his share himself.

Page 91

we were put into the kitchen; we had a snug room and a comfortable fire, and we began to think about cooking some of our fat beef; one of the men proposed to the landlady to sell her a shirt for some sauce; she very readily took the shirt, which was worth a dollar at least,—she might have given us a mess of sauce, for I think she would not have suffered poverty by so doing, as she seemed to have a plenty of all things.

Page 149 - This quote is pretty straight forward, I think.

pound of lean fresh beef and a gill of wheat for each man, whether we had any salt to season so delicious a morsel, I have forgotten, but I am sure we had no bread, (except the wheat,) but I will assure the reader that we had the best of sauce; that is, we had keen appetites.

Page 215

The first night of our expedition, we boiled our meat; and I asked the landlady for a little sauce, she told me to go to the garden and take as much cabbage as I pleased, and that, boiled with the meat, was all we could eat.

Page 245

One pound of good and wholesome fresh or salt beef, or three fourths of a pound of good salt pork, a pound of good flour, soft or hard bread, a quart of salt to every hundred pounds of fresh beef, quart of vinegar to a hundred rations, a gill of rum, brandy or whiskey per day; some little soap and candles, I have forgot how much, for I had so little of these two articles, that I never knew the quantity. And as to the article of vinegar, I do not recollect of ever having any except a spoonful at the famous rice and vinegar thanksgiving in Pennsylvania, in the year 1777.

I also found another source that uses the word "sauce" in the same way. In a letter written by Jabez Huntington to Joshua Huntington on August 6, 1776 the author wrote "These Comes per your Schooner Capt. Ingraham with sundry Artickles for the Army I understood per Letter from Colo. Huntington that it was verry difficult to Obtain green Sase (sauce) in N York so orderd a Box filled with Betes, Carriots, Puttatoes, and Turnups directed to your Care to be divided between your Self and Brothors in Camp".

FOLLOW UP - Continuing my review of the literature around this subject here is what I found on 8/15/13.

I have discovered that, in fact, veggies were called sauce when used to accompany meat. It is not well known, even among colonial food historians apparently, but, in the book Food in Colonial and Federal America:

"Vegetables' place in the diet is revealed by the description of them as garden sauce, or "sass," and accompaniment to meat." (pg. 55) The book also mentions that "pumpkin was boiled and used as a sauce to accompany meat." (pg 23)

So, there you go!

Monday, August 12, 2013

1955 Allman's Bar-B-Q Newspaper Ad

Allman's Bar-B-Q ad, Fredericksburg, VA, from the April 22, 1955 Free Lance Star. Allman's had been in business just about a year when this ad was run. "The Home of the Happy Hogs" was a great tag line, if you ask me.

Allman's BBQ Ad - The Free Lance-Star - April 22, 1955

Friday, July 26, 2013

Obsessive Compulsive Barbecue Featured on The BBQ Central Radio Show

July 23, 2013 BBQ Central Radio Show

Yours truly was a guest on the July 23, 2013 BBQ Central Radio Show. We discussed a little bit of barbecue history, how to become a KCBS BBQ judge, and music that celebrates BBQ. There were also some great guests including Diva Q's Danielle Dimovski. Watch as she discusses her new TV show on the Travel Channel BBQ Crawl. You can watch or listen at this link - July 23, 2013 BBQ Central Radio Episode.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Monday, July 1, 2013

Grilled Chiles Rellenos con Pollo en Queso

Chili (or Chile, whichever you prefer) peppers are delicious! I eat them on just about everything. Here is a great recipe for chili peppers stuffed with chicken and cheese. It doesn't call for deep fried peppers like many other chiles rellenos recipes so it is grill/smoker friendly. Here is the recipe.

6 to 8 large poblano peppers
1 to 1 1/2 pounds chicken breast strips

Chicken Seasoning Recipe
1/2 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 cloves chopped garlic
1 sliced onion
Juice of 1 lime
1 sliced jalapeno (Optional - If you are concerned about the heat, remove the seeds and white membrane.)
1 sliced bell pepper

Put all the chicken seasoning ingredients in a plastic bag and add the chicken breast strips  making sure the chicken is well coated. Let sit in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours.

On your grill or under your broiler, roast 6 to 8 poblano peppers until the skin is charred on both sides. Remove them from the heat and wrap in foil. Let them sit for about 15 minutes or until the chicken is done. Remove the peppers from the foil and then remove the skin, cut a slit in the pepper and remove the seeds.

Add the chicken in a pan with the marinated sliced onion and peppers. I use cast iron on my grill but you can also use your stove. Don't cook the chicken too fast. You want to avoid making the outside stringy and chewy. Just as the chicken is done, remove from the heat and cut into bite size pieces. Let the onion and peppers drain on a paper towel. Check for seasoning and adjust to taste.

Stuff the peppers with the chicken, onion, sliced jalapeno/bell peppers, and cheese (whatever kind you like and don't be stingy with it), put them in a greased casserole pan or iron skillet, pour some red chili sauce around the edges. Place in the oven at 350F degrees or in your smoker/grill (using indirect heat) and let them cook until the cheese is melted and bubbly.

Red Chili Sauce

3 tablespoons vegetable oil (Omit for gluten free. See instructions below.*)
1 tablespoon flour (Omit for gluten free. See instructions below.*)
1/4 cup chili powder
2 cups low sodium chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
10 ounces tomato paste
1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
Juice of 1/2 lime

Heat the oil and whisk in the flour. Cook for 1 minute. Add chili powder and cook for about 30 seconds. Add stock, cumin, tomato paste, and oregano. Stir well and bring to a boil, reduce heat and cook for about 15 more minutes. Adjust the seasonings to your taste.

* For gluten free, don't use the flour and oil. Instead, mix 1/4 cup of the room temperature chicken stock with 2 TBS of corn starch. Bring all of the other ingredients to a simmer and whisk in the corn starch/broth mixture to thicken it. Only use as much as is needed to thicken to desired consistency, reduce heat to low and cook for about 15 minutes. Season to taste.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Glorious Fourth! How it Was Celebrated in 19th Century Virginia

The Tucumcari News and Tucumcari Times - June 20, 1913
For about twenty years after the Declaration of Independence was signed, Americans didn’t widely celebrate it. Not because it wasn't important to them, it's just that there was so much activity put into building their new nation that the joy of independence was something most felt often and not just on a single day. By the 1790s, bitter partisan conflicts had developed and even the Declaration of Independence had become a controversial political topic. The Democratic-Republicans party admired Thomas Jefferson and the Declaration of Independence. But the opposing party, the Federalists, took the position that the Declaration of Independence was too French-like and went too far in its  anti-British rhetoric. John Adams complained in an 1817 letter that Americans seemed uninterested in the history of the nation.

At about the same time that Adams complained about Americans' lack of interest in the founding of the country, the Federalist party began to dissolve and new parties were established in the 1820s and 1830s. The new parties considered themselves inheritors of Thomas Jefferson and the Democratic-Republicans party. Copies of the Declaration of Independence were widely circulated with the important date of July 4, 1776 printed right across the top. Ironically, the deaths of Thomas Jefferson and John Adams on July 4, 1826 may be the final events that cemented the idea of July 4 as an important day in American history.

Soon, Americans were celebrating the "Glorious Fourth" all over the country. Employers were allowing their employees to take the day off, plantation owners would give the day off to those whom they enslaved, and barbecues were the main events all over. Even so, it wasn't until 1870 that Congress would declare July 4 a national holiday.

Early on, the "Glorious Fourth" has been a day for barbecues in Virginia going back to the earliest times in our country's history even in those early days when people living in other parts of the country were ignoring the day. However, the Civil Was would change all of that, at least for a couple of decades. Few barbecues held in Virginia during the civil war and even when the war ended Virginians were not quick to resume the celebration of the day. The worthless Confederate currency coupled with the Federal Army's tactic of destroying food stocks, took its toll. And, immediately after the Civil War, Virginia ceased to be a state and became "Military District Number One" ruled by a military governor.

It took a while after the Civil War for "the Fourth" to again be known as the "Glorious Fourth." In fact, the Richmond Dispatch of July 6, 1886 (21 years after the end o f the war) took note that in Richmond, Virginia "the day (July 4 of 1886) was more generally observed than any Fourth since the war".

The Enquirer (Richmond, VA newspaper) of July 26, 1808 provides a description of an early 19th century Virginia July 4th barbecue. This event occurred in Charlottesville, VA and, according to letters written to Thomas Jefferson, was attended by Anne Scott Jefferson.
The citizens of Albemarle county convened in Charlottesville to celebrate the 4th of July. The Declaration of American Independence was read  to a large assembly in the Courthouse. At three o'clock the company animated by the presence of many of the most accomplished ladies in the vicinity, sat down to a handsome barbecue provided by Mr. Elijah Garth. After dinner, on the retiring of the ladies, the gentlemen drank the following toasts in the republican spirit of their own country. 
1.) The 4th of July 1776 - May the principles it consecrated animate us in every crisis to defend the blessings it bequeathed.  
2.) The People - The only legitimate source of power. May they ever beware of those insidious friends who would protect them from "their worst enemies, themselves." 
3.) The Constitution of the U.S. - The solar central point of the Federative system; may its mild and beneficent attraction harmonize in their respective orbits the planets that compose it. 
4.) America - The world's best hope; the last asylum of persecuted freedom. She has strangled the serpents in her cradle - she need not feat their hisses now.
5.) Virginia - In the 'war of the revolution' she led the van. In the dark period of the reign of terror, she fanned the decaying flame, and cheered the drooping sons of freedom. she will never tarnish the lustre of her fame. 
6.) George Washington - His meritorious services will consecrate to his memory the "fairest page in the volume of faithful history." 
7.) The President of the United States - Useful and illustrious is the consciousness of having faithfully devoted his best efforts to his country's service, will constitute the happiness of his retirement. 
8.) The Judiciary of our State - Wise, republican and independent. A shield to the virtuous and a terror to evil doers. 
9.) The Governor of Virginia - May his country remember his services, and his successors emulate his virtues. 
10.) Wilson C. Nichols, our representative in Congress. Wisdom to discern; and firmness and independence to pursue the best interests of his country. 
11.) The Embargo - A weapon of more effective hostility than the canon or the sword. It promises the advantages of war without its waste of blood and treasure. 
12.) The Manufacturing spirit now moving over the face of our land. May it grow strong, may it be general and permanent; then shall we be indeed an independent nation. 
13.) The Patriots of '76 - Should their descendants be called upon to defend the independence they established, their spirit will support, and their example will animate and inspire them. 
14.) The Militia - The rights of the nation are their rights; they will know how to defend them. The best source of political reformation - the scourge of those who would destroy, and the support of those who cherish true republicanism. 
15.) The freedom of the Press. 
16.) The Minority in Congress, and the friends of that minority - "Monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated, where reason is left free to combat it." 
17.) The state of Massachusetts - A caution against the security, and a call upon the vigilance of republicanism.
During the civil war, as you can imagine, the Southern states didn't celebrate the fourth and there seemed to be a subdued disappointment and sadness that they couldn't and many newspapers felt compelled to write about the lack of 4th of July celebrations. The Confederate Union from July 7, 1863 commented (with a hint of sarcasm aimed at the "Yankees"). The author didn't yet know that the Union won the Battle of Gettysburg on July 4, 1863 which turned out to be the beginning of the end for the Confederacy.
4th of July 
We saw nothing in our town to remind us of the return of the Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence of the once United States of America. It passed off like any other day - sans fireworks, sans music, sans whiskey storms, sans barbecues, sans everything. Gen. Lee has sadly interfered with the 4th of July programme in some of the Yankee towns of Southern Pennsylvania. Instead of flying banners about York on the 4th there were only flying Dutchmen to be seen. We have no doubt Gen. Lee's Army paid proper respect to the day, by a fight or foot race with the Yankees.

The author of the above commentary obviously didn't have full knowledge of what happened at Gettysburg.

Immediately after the civil war, the Southern states were in no mood to celebrate July 4th. This article printed in the Federal Union of July 3, 1866 sarcastically sums up the sentiment that prevailed throughout the South at that time.
4th of July! Tomorrow is the famous 4th of July. It used to be a big day for us, when our boys had pretty uniforms and flashing guns and swords to go a mustering in - but the boys who used to carry them are sleeping under the sod - and the principles they made such a noise about are as dead as they are. The U.S. Congress has decided that our boys shall not serve in the Army or Navy of the U.S. any more - what use then for us to go a sogering on the 4th! They have put us out of the Union and taken our country away from us - therefore we have no flag to salute and toast as in days of yore. What a miserable apology for a people we are, anyhow! No country, no principles, no flag, no military, no money, no 4th of July! Nothing but taxes and trouble! Oh my! Won't somebody take pity on us, and carry us in out of the cold?
We hear that a public spirited gentleman intends giving a barbecue at the river, where those inclined to celebrate the 4th in that way, can be accommodated at a dollar a head. We hope Ab will cook his pigs brown, and be sure that he kills all the worms as dead as the 4th of July is in this part of the world.

A follow up story in the July 10, 1866 Federal Union had this report -
"The Fourth" passed away without anything happening worthy of special notice. There were many freedmen in town who came to see what was to be seen. But, "not a drum was heard"; and as they had no cash to spend, they departed for their homes but little, if any, poorer or wiser than when they came. 
Our white population treated the day much as they do other days at this season - trying to keep cool. A few who had invitations and horse flesh, went ruralizing in search of spring water and barbecue. 
When the Fourth of July comes round again, we hope our people may have the right, as well as be in the mood, to welcome the day with something of the spirit, pride and patriotic pleasure that marked the anniversary of the Nation's birth in the better days of the Republic.
The Richmond Dispatch of July 6, 1886 summarizes how July 4th was celebrated in 19th century Virginia before and after the civil war.

How it was celebrated yesterday and in by-gone days.
 The ante-bellum celebration of the Fourth of July in Richmond consisted of an artillery salute fired from the southern slope of the Capitol Square, a parade of the military on the drill ground between the Washington monument and the Executive Mansion, where the Governor and Adjutant-General usually reviewed them, and where they somewhat practiced themselves in musketry by firing several rounds of blank cartridges, to the delight of most and to the consternation of some of the crowd. These exercises over, the companies soon separated, and nearly all of them went picnicking. Buchanan's Spring, Clarke's Spring, Mitchell's Spring. Goddin's Tavern, and Ritchie's farm were among the favorite shades of that day, where, with uniform-coat off, the soldier and his civic guests mixed gallons of mint-julep and bowls of punch, pitched quoits, shot at targets, ran races, wrestled, or played cards, as fancy inclined. The dinners consisted largely of barbecued meats and Brunswick stew, though more ornate dishes were not wanting, and along with the wines came the toasts in which, and in the responsive speeches, " Our Country," "Virginia," "the Memory of Washington," "the City of Richmond," and "Woman" were never forgotten. A grandiloquent style of speaking prevailed, and the term "Fourth-of-July orator" became a synonym for labored rhetorical flights of young and exuberantly patriotic parties; but these were real love-feasts. 
The horizon was not yet specked by clouds of war. Virginians cherished the Union with a warmth such as only a parent can feel for a dearly loved child; and after they had heard her praises sounded, and were done with their eating and drinking and frolicking, the military formed in line, and, preceded military formed in line, and, preceded by drum and fife and four or five boys bearing the riddled target-board, they marched back to the city and put away their arms and accoutrements until next time.

When the war came there were no holidays for the masses; it was all fighting and no frolicking. After the first year there were few new or clean uniforms to parade in, and no powder and caps to spare for salutes which would kill nobody. Hostilities ended, the Confederate flag furled, Richmond people looked at the unturfed graves in Oakwood and Hollywood and at the burnt district in their city, and at the Federal troops quartered in the suburbs, and could not all at once revive Fourth-of-July patriotism in their breasts. But as nature and human industry covered the scars of war, and the great majority of the North and of the South buried their differences, the observance of the Fourth again became general here. At first no attention was paid to it. Few closed places of business. Now, it is the most generally observed holiday of the year, Christmas alone excepted. 
In these times, as of old, the stars and stripes float from every flag staff and masthead; but the crowds which used to picnic near the city now take excursion trains and fly to Washington, to Old Point, to the White Sulpbur, to Fredericksburg, to Petersburg - indeed any where to be out of Richmond. The colored troops, ever burning with patriotism and ever indifferent to the burning sun, have usually stayed at home and paraded and marched and pic-nicked. 
Our people go out and the country people, white and black, come in. The excursion trains pass each other on the roads, and so crowded are the cars that it is hard to tell whether the out-come or in-put is the greater; and it is likewise a disputed point whether the country people who come to the city or the city people who go to the country catch more of hot weather. But it makes no difference. It is the natal day of American independence; it is a day for fun and frolic, and if the former is only to be got by much endurance and some hard work, and the latter haves headaches, they are but part and parcel of the joy and misery we must endure for our beloved country.

In Fear God and Walk Humbly:The Agricultural Journal of James Mallory, 1843-1877, by James Mallory, the sentiment in the South before and after the Civil War is well documented. Mallory's diary entries for July fourth from the years 1844 up to 1858 were all very similar to his 1844 entry. Starting in 1859 and to the end of his diary, his entries indicate a lack of enthusiasm and support for Independence Day. Here are his entries for July 4 with 1844 and then 1859 to 1876.

A large [crowd] attended the Barbecue, patriotism seemed to prevail to a great extent, good order and more abundant provision I never witnessed, about the time of dinner mostly after the ladies had dined a shower interupted the enjoyment of the party, all seemed to regret it as the managers had taken so great pains to entertain the crowd.

Crops are so grassy and people are showing more love of Cash than patriotism, fear the sectional strife going on with regard to slavery has lessoned the devotion for our national holidays.

No celebration of independence day, indeed it is to be feared that political strife and sectional rancor and hate on the subject of slavery is going far to do away [with] that Patritism that has heretofore been the safeguard of our Union, and the glory of our people.

Independence day is not much celebrated from the sadness of the times, it is of additional interest from the circumstance of the federal Congress meeting to determine on their future policy, if they support Lincoln in his war policy awful will be the times. A rainy day, it will gladen the feelings of thousands, the South will rejoice in plenty of food, God is good to us, may we be grateful for it. No war news.

The context of Mallory's1861 diary entry was the fact that on July 4, 1861, president Lincoln called Congress to a special session. His address to the congress blamed the outbreak of hostilities on the South and asked for 400 thousand men and four hundred million dollars. Congress approved. The Civil War, pg 90-92.

Fighting is going on with great loss on both sides, history gives no account of such a conflict, reports in our favor. The National Independence day has been interrupted by the terrible conflict going on around Richmond, the South if no solemnity hung over it might well retains its galey day never having violated the spirit of the Constitution.

Independence day is not much attended to these times of suffering, hope we may soon add another to our festive days in relief of our enemies. Finished ploughing our corn and potatoes, may harrow some corn.

The day so celebrated by us Americans seems to be lost sight of in the present great sufferings of our people, may a brighter and more glorious one succeed it in our deliverance from our present enemies.
The blacks are crowding every road to Talladega in great numbers to (as they think) a great dinner to be given them by the yankees, very hot.

The day has lost its spell on the hearts of our people, our cruel enemies have done their work of oppression so well that great changes must take place before patriotism has much to do in connection with country. The Freedmen and a few white Radicals had a large assemblage at Town (Talledega) yesterday.

July 3 - Had a chill with high fever
July 4 - (Sabbath) Was to(o) unwell for preaching today, the family attended, hot.
July 5 - Commended to use the Sweeps in our cotton, it is the best crop in the country.

Independence day has lost its glory with So[u]thern people, the Civil War and oppressive rule of Congress has alienated the people from the government, still their vile laws and robbery continue.

There is no hallo of delight in this day with the subjugated South. We gave our Freedmen a dinner.

The day has lost its glory for the South, so oppressed by the government, bourn down by Radical and negro rule & taxes that the people have lost their love for the old flag. Finished laying by our corn, it is good.

There was a cold effort to revive the love of the day observed in most the S. Cities.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Home Made Hot Sauce - Quick and Easy!


Making your own, customized hot sauce is one of the easiest things you can do. It's great when you create something that is tailored to your personal taste and personal tolerance for heat. Here is a recipe that I use all the time. You can use any kind of peppers you like. You just have to be aware of the thickness of the skin on the chili peppers that you use. For example, cayenne and jalapeno chili peppers have relatively thin skins. But, Poblano and Fresno chili peppers have thicker skins. If the pepper you choose has a thick skin, you may want to roast the peppers and remove the skin before making your chili pepper sauce.

Here is my basic recipe for making hot sauce. I prefer jalapeno or Fresno peppers, but you can use any peppers you prefer. Just make sure you deal with the skin accordingly.

My latest sauce was made with Fresno chili peppers. Here is the recipe.

8 to 12 Fresno chili peppers (use whatever chili peppers you prefer)
2 cloves garlic or 1/2 tsp. granulated garlic
1 teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon fine grind black pepper
1/3 cup distilled vinegar
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard (the emulsifier; holds the ingredients together)
1/4 teaspoon xanthum gum (the thickener)

Put all of the ingredients in a food processor and let it whirl until everything is very finely ground. Pour into a sauce pan and simmer it for about 20 minutes. As it simmers the Fresno chili pepper puree will turn from pink to reddish orange. Strain it, discard the solids (or save them for a sandwich spread which is what I do) and then pour the sauce into a sterilized bottle. I use 5 ounce woozy bottles. Keep refrigerated and serve on anything. It's delicious!

Play around with the recipe and make it your own. Do you like a sweeter sauce? Add some honey or brown sugar. Or, how about some pineapple juice or pureed mango or strawberries? Make the sauce your own and have fun!

P.S. - Chili peppers or Chile peppers: Who cares? It's delicious no matter how you spell it!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Antebellum Barbecue Mop Recipe - Dipney

A 1780 Barbecue in Tennessee from Stories of American History, 1913.
John Sevier (from Virginia) often held VA style barbecues for the other early settlers in Tennessee.

Below is a first hand account of a typical antebellum southern barbecue. It was written by Martha McCulloch-Williams (born Susan Martha Ann Collins)  in her book Dishes & Beverages of the Old South published in 1913. The author was born and raised in Northwestern Tennessee and lived there until she married and eventually moved to New York with her husband in 1887. A notable quote from her book is "The very best decoration for a table is something good in the plates." I agree wholeheartedly! And what could decorate a table better than barbecue?
... lambs, pigs, and kids, when barbecued, are split in half along the backbone. The animals, butchered at sundown, and cooled of animal heat, after washing down well, are laid upon clean, split sticks of green wood over a trench two feet deep, and a little wider, and as long as need be, in which green wood has previously been burned to coals. There the meat stays twelve hours - from midnight to noon next day, usually. It is basted steadily with salt water, applied with a clean mop, and turned over once only. Live coals are added as needed from the log fire kept burning a little way off. All this sounds simple, dead-easy. Try it - it is really an art.
The plantation barbecuer was a person of consequence - moreover, a few plantations could show a master of the art. Such an one could give himself lordly airs - the loan of him was an act of special friendship - profitable always to the personage lent. Then as now there were free barbecuers, mostly white - but somehow their handiwork lacked a little perfection. For one thing, they never found out the exact secret of "dipney," the sauce that savored the meat when it was crispy tender, brown all over, but free from the least scorching.
Daddy made it thus: Two pounds sweet lard, melted in a brass kettle, with one pound beaten, not ground, black pepper, a pint of small fiery red peppers, nubbed and stewed soft in water to barely cover, a spoonful of herbs in powder - he would never tell what they were, - and a quart and pint of the strongest apple vinegar, with a little salt. These were simmered together for half an hour, as the barbecue was getting done. Then a fresh, clean mop was dabbed lightly in the mixture, and as lightly smeared over the upper sides of the carcasses. Not a drop was permitted to fall on the coals - it would have sent up smoke, and films of light ashes. Then, tables being set, the meat was laid, hissing hot, within clean, tight wooden trays, deeply gashed upon the side that had been next the fire, and deluged with the sauce, which the mop-man smeared fully over it.
Hot! After eating it one wanted to lie down at the spring-side and let the water of it flow down the mouth. But the flavor, a savor, a tastiness, nothing else earthy approaches. Not food for the gods, perhaps, but certainly meat for men. Women loved it no less - witness the way they begged for a quarter lamb or shoat or kid to take home. The proper accompaniments to barbecue are sliced cucumbers in strong vinegar, sliced tomatoes, a great plenty of salt-rising light bread - and a greater plenty of cool ripe watermelons, by way of desert.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

A Bad Boy's Diary, 1880

A Bad Boy's Diary by Walter Gray (Metta Victoria Victor)

Metta Victoria Victor had numerous pseudonyms, gave birth to nine children, and authored over 100 books. In fact, she and her husband invented the American dime novel (the first paperbacks).

In 1880 Victor's book A Bad Boy's Diary was published. A Bad Boy's Diary is about little Georgie Hacket. No matter how hard Georgie tries, he just can't stay out of trouble. It was the best selling book in the year 1880 and spawned an entire series about Georgie's misadventures.

While the book is a work of fiction, the context is set in the real world of 1880. This excerpt provides some insight into how important barbecue events were to politics in the 19th century and also in how those events were financed. Little Georgie didn't have the best grammar or spelling skills and I present the text just as it was originally written by the author. Here is the story of when Georgie and a friend decide to hold their own, private barbecue.

A Bad Boy's Diary - He Takes Part in the Election
My father has gone to a naboring villedge to hear some grate speker in the open air. He sade the fokes was going to have a barbecue to finish up the fun. I ast him what was a barbecue, and be sade it was rosting an ox hull with plenty of hard cider and uther things to be et and drunk out of dores so as to make it more golly. I. wanted to go along, but he said he would not take such a looking boy besides I had been very bad last night, he woulk leave me behind for a punishment. I felt lonesome, so I whistled for Jonny to clime over the fence wen his mother was not looking and I said " Johnny, if we had a nox we could have a barbecue all to ourselfs - and wouldn't that be fun?" He said it would be offul fun, only we had no ox. So then I said: "There is more ways than one to skin a cat - come out behind the barn an I will sho you something, Johnny."
This was about 4 o'clock. About six my mamma saw something brite shining before she lit the lamps. Everything was all red an as lite as day. She ran to the windo an scremed : "0 Bess, Bess, the stable is on fire!" But she was mistaken. It was only a big fire behind it witch me an Johnny had made to have our own privat barbecue.
It is true that the corner of the cow-shed had got in a blaze, but the nabors put that out. " The cow is safe," said Bess, " but o dear, where is the cunning little calf?" "What's that?" cried mamma turning pale. "Georgie, you notty, good-for-nothing, cruel boy, tell me this minnit - O you wicked boy !" "It's only me and Johnny having a barbecue," I answered. "A what ?" she cride. " A barbecue, mamma. If big folks roste an ox I should think little ones mite roste a teeny weenty calf. Its most done now-wont you all stay an have a piece? We've got a lot of cider, too, out of Johnny's sellar. Were going to do it up in reglar stile."
"Did you roste the poor thing alive ?" shrieked my sister. "Why no, Bess, don't you see we rosted it dead?" Its strange how little some girls know. It was unreasonable for mamma to make such a fuss about a miserable little calf. Johnny was sent home an' we neither of us got a taste of our barbecue; but papa could stuff down all he wanted, I dare say. I The older I grow the more injustice I see. 
N.B. Johnny told me in a whisper this morning he forgot to turn the fasset back, he was in such a hurry for fear the cook would catch him, so the hull barl of cider ran away. Well, there's one consolashun. I herd papa say it cost a grate deal of money to eleckt a president. He said he'd been sent some and tole to place it where it would do the most good. I suppose the calf and the cider must go in the eleckshun expenses. All I regret is they were not placed where they wood do most good, cause me and Johnny was not allowed to eat and drink em. We expect to have a lot of fun next week.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Barbecue Sold by the Bucket

The Daily Ardmoreite, May 23, 1906

I ran across an advertisement for barbecue that was run in The Daily Ardmoreite of Ardmore, OK back in 1906. It tells of barbecue that was cooked fresh every day and informs the reader to bring a bucket. So, barbecue was sold by the bucket decades before chicken was sold by the bucket. Sorry, Colonel.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Old Virginia Barbecue Sauce Recipe - "Shack Sauce"

Old Virginia "Shack" Sauce
Here is a delicious version of an old VA BBQ sauce inspired by a 19th century VA BBQ man named Shack. It has no sugar in it, so sweet sauce fans may want to stay away.

1 1/2 cup Apple Cider Vinegar
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup of your favorite hot sauce (I use Texas Pete)
1 Tablespoon (TBS) Paprika
1 TBS Black Pepper
1 TBS Kitchen Salt
2 TBS Yellow Mustard (French's)

Mix well, let sit in the refrigerator for at least 24 to 48 hours before serving for best results. I blend it in my food processor, that's why it's about 16 ounces total.

By the way, I will be telling Shack's incredible story in my upcoming book about the history of Virginia barbecue. So, stay tuned!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Great Boston Barbecue of 1793 - Roast Ox and the French Revolution

Southwest view of the Old State House on State Street as it appeared in 1793.
(Illustration from State Street: A Brief Account of a Boston Way)

State Street (named King Street in 1770) in Boston, Massachusetts, in front of the Old State House, is where the first blood of the American Revolution was shed during the Boston Massacre of March 5, 1770. Twenty three years later, Bostonians were celebrating not only their own freedom from oppression but also the belief that liberty was sweeping France in the 1790s as a result of the French Revolution. Here is an account of the great State Street barbecue that took place on January 23, 1793 excerpted from State Street: A Brief Account of a Boston Way by State Street Trust Company, Boston, 1906.
The strangest scene that State Street has witnessed was the barbecue at the time of the French Revolution. America was full of its partisans, and nowhere was this friendly sympathy keener than in Boston. Bostonians of this era delighted in calling each other “citizens,” and strove in many other ways to show their sympathy with the spirit of liberty then sweeping through France. The feeling found expression, two days after the execution of Louis XVI in the barbecue. A thousand pound ox was killed, and its horns gilded and placed on an altar twenty feet high. Drawn by fifteen horses and preceded by two hogsheads of punch pulled by six horses, and accompanied by a cart of bread, it was escorted through the streets of Boston, and finally deposited in State Street. Tables had been spread from the Old State House to Kilby Street, and the citizens feasted upon roast ox and strong punch, to the subsequent confusion of many. Boston’s fair women decked the windows of the neighboring houses, and amused themselves by throwing flowers upon the feasters, until the scene culminated in what some of the best citizens characterized as a “drunken revelry.” When the news of the execution of the king reached America, there was a sudden revulsion of feeling against his executioners.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Barbecue Trees

Harper's Weekly, July 27, 1861 (Illustration courtesy of harpersweekly.com)

Can you spot the barbecue trees in the above illustration? In the early 19th century, during the administration of president Andrew Jackson, two groves of trees were planted on the Capitol Grounds for barbecues. After lots of research and a labor of love, I can now tell their story. You can read about them in this month's issue of Smoke Signals Magazine beginning on page 4. Here is the link - Smoke Signals Magazine Issue 11.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Slow Smoked Meat!

Here is the official theme song and video for Obsessive Compulsive Barbecue and its competition cook team Man vs. Pig.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Pie Town Fair Barbecue of 1940

Pie Town, peacefully resting in Catron County, New Mexico was apparently founded as follows: Sometime in the early 1920's, Mr. Clyde Norman, a tall Texan and World War 1 veteran who "liked to bake", "broke down" on the side of the road and began making dried apple pies at his upstart business on a piece of ground that lay along a little rocky ridge and the "Coast to Coast Highway" later to become U.S. 60. The word got around that the best pies anywhere were to be found at "Pie Town" hence the name Pie Town.

In 1940, near the end of the Great Depression and just before the dawn of the United States' entry into World War II, a photographer named Russell Lee, an itinerant, government photographer employed by funds from Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal, captured stirring photographs of the people of Pie Town. The images he captured are nothing less than national treasures. Here, I post some of the photos of the Pie Town Fair Barbecue of 1940 made available by the Library of Congress. The photographs need no commentary. The images tell the story better than any words ever could.

The Pie Town Community Church
Harvesting Corn
Main Street, Pie Town
Starting the Fires
Pinto Beans: Pie Town's Main Crop in 1940
Giving Thanks Before The Barbecue Meal
Slicing the Pies!
Serving up Pinto Beans
Barbecue Being Served
A Homesteader Feeding His Daughter at the Barbecue
The Crowd Enjoying the Barbecue
A Homesteader and his Children Enjoying the Barbecue