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Savage Barbecue

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

Andrew Warnes

Publication Year: 2008

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.

Published by: University of Georgia Press


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pp. vii-viii

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-x

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pp. ix-xiv

Almost a decade ago I began to gather material in and around the subject of barbecue, and the debts that I have accumulated since then have grown difficult to count. All mistakes here are my own, but what I get right I get right because I have been so lucky in my friends and colleagues. Over those eight years Bridget Bennett, Martin Butler, Susan Castillo...

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pp. 1-11

September 2005. Th e museum café is abuzz. People of every color are taking advantage of its wooden benches, easing feet wearied by the galleries above their heads. School parties commandeer long benches of their own, oblivious to the halo of empty tables developing around them. At a distance from their noisy voices, adults relax. Couples pour drinks, lone diners read the day's newspapers, and scholars speak up to make...

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1. From Barbacoa to Barbecue: An Invented Etymology

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pp. 12-49

Pretty soon, within a week or so of setting sail, all onboard would have grown tired of salt cod. Like the new maps of the world that greatly shrank the distance from Andalusia to the Orient, the increasing availability of this food throughout Europe over the course of the fifteenth century was a necessary precondition that brought...

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2. London Broil

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pp. 50-87

Like many landmark novels of the African diaspora, Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man (1952) rejects linear narrative, telling its story from end to beginning and back again. No obvious plotline links its celebrated set pieces. No distinct thread links its southern protagonist's attempt to ward homesickness off by buying a yam from a Harlem...

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3. Pit Barbecue Present and Past

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pp. 88-136

Of course, even if they wanted it, the organizers of the Black Family Reunion Celebration would never get permission for such a feast. Th e Washington Mall is far too acclaimed and austere a space to play host to the skirmishes and smoke, the booze and bawdy antics that greeted Ward on that midsummer's day in Peckham Rye. Neoclassical...

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4. Barbecue between the Lines

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pp. 137-172

Edward W. Said's Orientalism (1978) has held great importance for Savage Barbecue as it has for numerous inquiries into race, identity, and the cultural bases of empires old and new. Almost thirty years after its publication, Orientalism's frank talk of the United States as an "Imperium" following in the footsteps of Britain and France now...


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pp. 173-184


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pp. 185-200


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pp. 201-206

E-ISBN-13: 9780820340180
E-ISBN-10: 0820340189
Print-ISBN-13: 9780820328966
Print-ISBN-10: 0820328960

Page Count: 224
Illustrations: 14 b&w photos
Publication Year: 2008

OCLC Number: 706076562
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Savage Barbecue