Barbecue Habits Around the World
The truth, however, lies elsewhere as different people from different cultures have been cooking their meat with the high heat of a fire, usually lit outdoors, since thousands of years ago. Smoking, baking, braising, grilling using would, charcoal, natural gas or electricity, barbeques have always been popular in every corner of the planet.
‘Gauchos’, the traditional inhabitants of the vast Argentinean plains (Pampa) have a long tradition in ‘asado’ (grilled meat), accompanied by a piece of bread so they don’t get burnt. Argentines claim they are blessed producing ‘world’s best meat’, which may be true given the size of the country in relation to its population, as well as the free lifestyle of their cattle. Using high quality meat is half the secret, though. What makes the real difference is how the meat has been cut, which putting it in simple words is ‘as thick as possible’ but it is much more complicated. The seasoning is always quite simple, as good quality meat doesn’t’ need any kind of special sauce, apart from a generous amount of salt.
Barbecues a.k.a. ‘barbies’ are so popular, especially during the summer, that free or coin-operated gas or electric BBQs are available in many city parks. Apart from barbecuing meat, the use of prawns is increasingly popular. So, phrases such “I’ll slip an extra prawn on the barbie for you” are not uncommon…
In Southern Brazil, ‘Churrasco’ is very common as Brazilian ‘gauchos’ from Rio Grande do Sul, residing in the extensive region of natural pasture (Pampa), developed similar habits to those living in neighbouring Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay. Living mainly outdoors, grilling the meat was the easier food to prepare given the circumstances, as there was plenty of cattle and wood in the surrounding environment. Again, salt is the only ingredient used in the BBQ preparation.
In ancient Greece, religious festivals were consisting mainly of roast meat and wine, as only the rich could afford eating meat regularly. Today, unlike most Catholic dominant countries where Christmas is the most important annual event, the biggest and most celebrated religious Greek-orthodox festival takes place during the Easter, and it is on Easter Sunday and Monday, when the whole country is in flames. The custom of turning the spit (‘souvla’) by hand for four, or even more hours, over an outdoors fire, comes along with the arrival of spring and the rebirth of nature. Those days come after a 40-day fast, where no meat or fish is supposed to be consumed. Seasoning is a combination of sea salt, oregano, pepper, and lemon juice, which adds to the flavour.
‘Barbacoa’ traditionally consists of a one and a half meters deep hole, dug in the ground, where the meat, placed in a pot, is being grilled over maguey or banana leaves. It is believed that both, the word barbecue, which means ‘sacred fire pit’, as well as the cooking technique, come from the neighbouring Caribbean islands. Even though the method dates back to the pre-Columbian era, there are many common European-introduced ingredients used such as oregano, cumin, cinnamon, coriander, lemon juice.
In Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, and Malaysia it is called ‘Satay’ and consists of marinated diced pieces of meat, fish, or tofu, skewered on a bamboo stick. It can be served with various spicy seasonings, with turmeric and spicy peanut being the most common ones. Satay, is quite popular in the US and Europe, particularly in the Netherlands, who in the past, used to occupy Indonesia.
Barbecues vary from place to place, not only in the way they are being prepared and served, but also in the type of meat used. For instance, in the southeast the preferred meat is pork, while in the southwest they mainly use beef and in the state of Kentucky they use sheep (mutton). There is a great variety of different ingredients for the sauce, based on vinegar, tomatoes, horseradish, mustard, mayonnaise or ketchup. The most common devices used to prepare a ‘cookout’ include barbecue grills and portable barbecues. The most well-known barbeques outside the country are the Texan ones, and many restaurants around the world claim to specialize on that. The biggest annual events are ‘The American Royal Barbecue Contest’ in Kansas City and the ‘The World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest’ in Memphis.
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