Over the summer (yes, that was a long time ago) I was invited to a few barbecues at friends’ places. It brought me back to the barbecues I used to have growing up in Connecticut: slap a few homemade hamburgers and packaged Oscar Meyer beef franks on the grill, top it off with some ketchup, yellow mustard, and relish, and voilà. A simple affair. The barbecues I was invited to this year were similar, grilling up only the basic hot dogs and hamburgers, and serving the usual chips and dip on the side.
I only realized after going abroad that this is a very American version of BBQ. Or rather, a very northeastern American version of BBQ – I’m sure the Texans and southerners and mid-westerners are up to something altogether different. What I, as a New Englander, had always known as a “barbecue” was in fact a pale imitation of what I saw other people putting on elsewhere…
In Britain, it was all about the juicy sausages and shish kebabs; in New Zealand, I ate grilled shrimp for Christmas dinner; the Australian “barbie” featured lamb and steak and prawns; in Tanzania, I devoured mishkaki (“Swahili shish kebabs”) from roadside vendors; and the South Africans – probably the world masters of the braai – left no meat group unrepresented on the grill, the crowning joy being the saliva-inducing spiral of boerewors (sausage).
Somehow the hot dog and hamburger barbecues of my childhood are no longer so exciting. I think I need to dedicate some time to exploring all the American styles of barbecue… any recommendations on where to start?