The Tradition of Barbecuing for Independence Day Goes Back Farther Than You Think
It's about that time of year to celebrate the culinary union of barbecue and Independence Day! The Fourth of July is upon us, and across the country Americans will be celebrating with roasted and smoked meats.
Barbecue, which developed as a new, fusion cuisine well-suited for festive occasions by the late 1600s and early 1700s, became the ultimate party food during the period when Fourth of July celebrations gained momentum. The two have been linked up ever since!
Celebrating the 4th with barbecue is actually a very old Southern tradition, one that dates back to the beginning of the country.
Barbecue was a thing long before Independence Day. We're not talking about hamburgers and hot dogs on the grill - We're talking about "old school" barbecue, where a whole animal carcass was skewered and cooked over a trench filled with burning coals/fire. Today, we tend to fall into stereotypes about which meat authentically represents the barbecue of a region, but back then, anything could go over the pit regardless of geography. Cows, pigs, sheep, and even opossum were the most common. - via Zocalo Public Square
Just after the Revolution, Americans marked Independence Day with public dinners, and in the South, those dinners quickly grew into large outdoor barbecues - via Southern Living. These celebrations were full of citizens from across a region that would gather in a central location, form a procession led by the local militia, and march to a church or the county courthouse. The ceremonies opened with a prayer followed by a reading of the Declaration of Independence, then the crowd would sing patriotic songs, and finally retire to a shady grove where a delicious barbecue feast was prepared!
These grand outdoor barbecues were free to all comers, and since the meat was donated by members of the community, it would be whatever local farmers had on hand. Pigs, chickens, goats, and whole steers ended up roasting over coals in pits dug into the ground. Simple sides such as sliced cucumbers, watermelon, and loaves of bread were served alongside.
As settlers moved westward, those from the Southern states took their barbecue tradition with them. Texans were celebrating Independence Day with barbecue by the late 1840s, and in 1858—just five years after the city's founding—the residents of Kansas City staged their first Fourth of July barbecue, which drew 3,000 attendees and featured a barbecued buffalo, according to Southern Living.
As you're dining on delicious barbecue this holiday weekend, you're continuing a long, proud Southern tradition.