A favorite pastime and a tradition for many across the world are barbecue and grills. Be it in an upscale bistro in Pittsburgh or a lounge in Paris, the alleys of Old Dhaka or on the beaches of Bali; this is one dish everyone needs a second helping. In simple terms, barbecue can be described as a process by which meat is slow cooked over a low fire with smoke. The word originates from the language of a Caribbean Indian tribe called the Taino. Their word for grilling on a raised wooden grate is ‘barbacoa’. The word was first printed in a Spanish explorer’s account of the West Indies in 1526. Since then, its popularity has spread like a wildfire.
The debate over the origin of barbecue is one that will probably never be resolved in time. It began when a human ancestor called Homo Erectus began cooking meat with fire about 1.8 million years ago. If man has been grilling since the Stone Age, he had to wait a good long time before he got his first taste of ‘barbecue.’ By 1940s, it became a common view at campsites and picnics. While the practice of grilling was relevant all across the world, it was the Yanks who mainstreamed it and integrated it into the American Pop-culture. American presidents were known to be big fans of grilling red-meat. George Washington’s diaries contain references of barbecue’s, including one that lasted for three days. When Abraham Lincoln’s parents were married, their wedding feast was a simple barbecue. After World War II, as the middle class began to move to the suburbs, backyard grilling caught on, and becoming phenomenon by 1950s. Soon, it became popular and other countries started to adapt it.
In South-Asia we are familiar with our own version of barbecue known as, ‘tandoor’. The origin of this type of barbecue can be traced back to Northern India, Afghanistan and Pakistan. In addition to ‘tandoor’, there is also the grilling of different types of meat covered in a spicy cream batter called ‘tikka masala’. This dish has become a symbolic dish next to Indian curry and quite popular in countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh.