Introduction

Introduction

By
Ben O'Donoghue
Contains
0 recipes
Published by
Hardie Grant Books
ISBN
9781742706887
Photographer
Billy Law

There is no doubt that I love a barbecue. It’s a style of cooking that continues to touch every culture, bringing people together all around the globe, and a social occasion that releases any sense of inhibition about ones ability to cook – everyone thinks they are a master!

According to the learned American gentleman Jonathan Daniels (1902–81), ‘Barbecue is a dish which binds together the taste of both the people of the big houses and the poorest occupants of the back end of the broken-down barn.’ Barbecues not only cross social and economic barriers, they also break down geographical and cultural boundaries. Every nation around the world has a form of barbecue, or certain types of food that are specically cooked on one.

Barbecuing is a cooking technique – some would say an art form – that can be performed just about anywhere: in restaurants and backyards, in parks, at beaches or on street corners. The basic requirements are so simple, a barbecue can be fashioned from just about any raw materials you have to hand. I have seen shopping trolleys, terracotta planter boxes, metal garbage cans, roof sheeting, plough wheels – you name it. If you can build a re in it, on it or under it, then you can have a barbecue. Whether you’re talking about the hangi pits of New Zealand and Polynesia, the braziers in Morocco’s souks, the blazing heat of a gaucho’s grill, the pit masters of the southern states of America, the barbecue kings of the Antipodes or the street stallholders of Asia, the common denominator is always fire.

Fire, or more specically, charcoal, lends a desirable flavour to food, and there is a primeval sense of security and accomplishment that comes from building a bonfire and cooking something in the flames. I well remember childhood memories of going down to the beach on early-morning fishing expeditions with my friends, building a re and throwing our fresh catch onto the coals, the charred results leaving us utterly replete.

This initial foray into cooking led me down my professional path, and it was these childhood memories, combined with my more recent global wanderings and discussions with taxi drivers, kitchen porters and fellow barbecue aficionados, that prompted me to write this book.

Barbecue’s origins lie in the Caribbean with the indigenous Taino, whose barabicu was a form of pit cooking using green pimento tree branches and leaves, which imparted their flavour to the food. The word barbacoa was used by the Mesoamerican people of Mexico, and it is generally accepted that the word we use today made its way into popular usage via Texas, which was once part of Mexico.

In most parts of the world, to barbecue means to directly grill food over hot coals or gas. In the US, however, it refers to a form of slow, indirect cooking that’s more in keeping with the tradition of pit cooking. Common to all methods is the fact that a barbecue is undeniably the most social and relaxing form of cooking and entertaining.

With the advent of new fuels and construction materials, the modern barbecue has come a long way from that classic backyard feature, the wood-burning barbecue – usually constructed from a couple of bricks and a rusty metal grill, or a 44-gallon barrel cut in half with thick metal mesh thrown over the top. These days, the barbecues we cook on are the compact designer models, ideal for apartment dwellers; hooded gas barbecues, with all their bells and whistles; kettle barbecues, with their rounded, domed design and useful lid; and those ineffectual electric barbecues found in public parks and picnic areas.

This book is a celebration of the barbecue and its global idiosyncrasies. All the classics are here, along with recipes I’ve re-invented and my own personal favourites. I have cooked or eaten all of these fabulous recipes while exploring and enjoying the diversity of the barbecue world. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

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