The Old and New of Barbecue 1/5

Summer is upon us, dear readers, and nothing says summertime like an old-fashioned barbecue. Barbecue has a rich and long history that has transcended from the creation of the first colonies in the past to the Fourth of July tradition that is near and dear to our hearts.

The Beginning of American BBQ

Until about 20 years ago, very little was known about the actual history of barbecue as we know it in America, but we now know that our appreciation of it as a cooking method in its initial stages came from the Caribbean. According to, a blogger who is interested in the origins of cooking methods and dishes, “the word barbecue likely originated with the Caribbean Taino Indians, who would smoke or dry meat over a frame of green sticks.” There were detailed accounts of the cooking method by an English explorer, who was on an excursion in Peckham, Jamaica that described the process in much further detail that can be bought here.

In honor of the origins of American barbecue, this first recipe of the summer barbecue series is;

Jerk Chicken

This dish is considered a national staple and a cornerstone of pride for the proud island nation and has been a long-standing cooking tradition since the 1600’s.

According to Lauren Rothman, the cooking technique was brought over from Africa to the island during the slave trade for the sugar plantations owned by the Spanish, then the English. Groups of slaves rebelled and ran towards the mountains where the native Indian population were trying to escape from the colonies.

These escaped slaves hunted the wild boars that were common to the region, then preserved their catch for days with a marinade of spices. When it came time to cook the meat, they would dig holes in the ground, fill them with charcoal, then buried the meat in the holes. They covered up the holes while the meat was cooking to prevent the escape of smoke that could tip them off to their former captors.

Today’s most authentic version of Jerk chicken is cooked over not just coal, but also over the green wood of the pimento tree, which is native to the Caribbean islands and produces another important ingredient for the recipe: allspice berries.

While I may not promise you the most authentic version of the recipe out there, I will still provide a version that can be replicated in your own backyard so you can enjoy this spicy and tender form of barbecue that the Caribbean has to offer.



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