The History of an American Institution by Robert F. Moss



Americans enjoy reading about barbecue almost as much as they love eating it. Books on the subject cover almost every aspect of the topic: recipes, grilling tips, restaurant guides, pit-building instructions, and catalogs of exotic variants such as Mongolian barbecue and Indian tandoor cooking. Despite this coverage, the history of barbecue in the United States has until now remained virtually untold.


Barbecue: The History of an American Institution draws on hundreds of sources to document the evolution of barbecue from its origins among Native Americans to its present status as an icon of American culture. This is the story not just of a dish but of a social institution that helped shape the many regional cultures of the United States. The history begins with British colonists’ adoption of barbecuing techniques from Native Americans in the 16th and 17th centuries, moves to barbecue’s establishment as the preeminent form of public celebration in the 19th century, and is carried through to barbecue’s iconic status today.


From the very beginning, barbecues were powerful social magnets, drawing together people from a wide range of classes and geographic backgrounds. Barbecue played a key role in three centuries of American history, both reflecting and influencing the direction of an evolving society. By tracing the story of barbecue from its origins to today, Barbecue: The History of an American Institution traces the very thread of American social history. Robert Moss is Vice President of Product Management for Benefitfocus in Charleston, South Carolina, and the author of Raymond Chandler: A Literary Reference.


“In recent years, there has been an abundance of books detailing the history of American regional foodstuffs from apple pie to fried chicken, but few writers have tackled one of the most singular American food traditions: barbecue. Author/food historian Moss takes up this challenge in his engaging history of barbecue from its origins in colonial America to the development of regional styles and
barbecue restaurant culture. In the early chapters, Moss describes the impact of barbecue on American politics in the South and the Midwest, the role of the Civil War on barbecue and its place in African American food culture, and the rise of “barbecue men” in the late-19th century. The last half of the book details the different regional styles of barbecue that grew out of the barbecue restaurant boom of the mid-20th century and the rebirth of barbecue restaurants today. This is an engaging work suitable for public and academic libraries with large food history collections. Summing Up: Recommended. Lower- and upper-division undergraduates and general readers.”—CHOICE


“Moss knows more about the history of barbecue than anyone I’ve yet encountered, and nothing like this book has ever before been published. To his great credit, he treats his subject seriously but not solemnly. Barbecue is simply a lot of fun to read about. At least it is in Moss’s hands. He has some good stories to tell, and he tells them well. I love it that aristocrats of the South Carolina low country established private clubs where gentlemen could eat ‘cue without having to mingle with the hoi polloi. Who knew that barbecue once flourished in New England?” —John Shelton Reed, coauthor of Holy Smoke: The Big Book of North Carolina Barbecue


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.