Savage Barbecue

Race, Culture, and the Invention of America's First Food

Title Details

Pages: 224

Illustrations: 14 b&w photos

Trim size: 6.000in x 9.000in



Pub Date: 08/15/2008

ISBN: 9-780-8203-3109-6

List Price: $24.95

Savage Barbecue

Race, Culture, and the Invention of America's First Food

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  • Description
  • Reviews

Barbecue is a word that means different things to different people. It can be a verb or a noun. It can be pulled pork or beef ribs. And, especially in the American South, it can cause intense debate and stir regional pride. Perhaps, then, it is no surprise that the roots of this food tradition are often misunderstood.

In Savage Barbecue, Andrew Warnes traces what he calls America's first food through early transatlantic literature and culture. Building on the work of scholar Eric Hobsbawm, Warnes argues that barbecue is an invented tradition, much like Thanksgiving-one long associated with frontier mythologies of ruggedness and relaxation.

Starting with Columbus's journals in 1492, Warnes shows how the perception of barbecue evolved from Spanish colonists' first fateful encounter with natives roasting iguanas and fish over fires on the beaches of Cuba. European colonists linked the new food to a savagery they perceived in American Indians, ensnaring barbecue in a growing web of racist attitudes about the New World. Warnes also unearths the etymological origins of the word barbecue, including the early form barbacoa; its coincidental similarity to barbaric reinforced emerging stereotypes.

Barbecue, as it arose in early transatlantic culture, had less to do with actual native practices than with a European desire to define those practices as barbaric. Warnes argues that the word barbecue retains an element of violence that can be seen in our culture to this day. Savage Barbecue offers an original and highly rigorous perspective on one of America's most popular food traditions.

Warnes has written a well-researched book in Savage Barbecue. The historical and contemporary ideas he shares make this a fine contribution to the ever-expanding discussions of food and foodways. We will, from now on, look at barbecue as more than a way of preparing food on a grill.

—Psyche Williams-Forson, author of Building Houses out of Chicken Legs: Black Women, Food, and Power

In Savage Barbecue, Andrew Warnes proves that barbecue is more than a word, more even than a style of cooking. In this meticulously researched work, Warnes demonstrates that the barbecue tradition has long been about the careful separation of 'us' and 'them.' Warnes's masterwork proves that the use of the word barbecue has long told us as much about the person speaking as it has about what's being spoken about.

—Lolis Eric Elie, author of Smokestack Lightning: Adventures in the Heart of Barbecue Country

Andrew Warnes places 'this most American food' [barbecue] in a surprisingly broad historical context. . . . [He] has a firm hand on the ways in which the power to name is also the power to define . . . [and he] smartly deconstructs the history of the word itself, offering an informed speculation on the word's genesis. . . . This is a full exploration of a food bigger than any plate it's served on. . . . Savage Barbecue gets the story done just right.

Pop Matters

For those interested in how food and culture intertwine together, Savage Barbecue is painstakingly well researched and will surely be included in the bibliographies of many books one day.

Sauce Magazine

This is a rigorously researched and argued cultural, literary, and etymological study. While most useful to those interested in how language creates reality, serious barbecue enthusiasts might also appreciate its uncommon angle.


About the Author/Editor

ANDREW WARNES is Lecturer in American Literature and Culture at Leeds University. He is the author of Hunger Overcome? (Georgia) and Richard Wright's Native Son.