The weather has been beautiful these past few days in Toronto which has made it ideal for making any excuse to get outside- “uh, I think we need more milk-see ya!” or “oh no, allow me, I’ll take the garbage out!”. The other day while my sister and I went for a scenic jog outdoors (twist my arm!) I noticed that not only were a lot more people walking along the sidewalks … I also noticed some of my favorite warm weather smells- the first flowers of the season and BBQ’s!
The image that comes to mind of a typical barbecuer (barbecuee? barbecue person?), is a round, cheery, middle aged fellow, probably American, grilling up dinosaur sized slabs of meat with plenty of BBQ sauce. According to a TIME article entitled A Brief History of Barbecuing, barbecuing is “about as red, white and blue as American cuisine gets… and for true carnivores, the only real question is how to save room for seconds”. While barbecuing is currently accepted as a great American tradition, there is some debate about the origins.
The conventional wisdom is that barbecuing originates in the Caribbean; from here it has made its way into different areas and therefore cuisines, including other Southern parts of America, Argentina, and Korea to name a few. The Spanish used the word barbacoa to refer to the process of barbecuing food, which involved the natives’ method of slow-cooking meat over a wooden platform. You might be thinking, wait a minute- I cook my meat quickly over high heat when I’m barbecuing, not slowly. Well it appears as though all this time we have been grilling our food instead of barbecuing it. Today, people often use these two cooking terms interchangeably.
The historical account of barbecuing meat arose as a way to cook cheaply as it was associated with poverished populations. Barbecuing doesn’t require expensive cuts of meat- why bother if you are just going to grill the bagheebas out of it and/or slather it in sauce? What made the meat delicious was not the meat but actually the charring of the fat giving it that smoky taste. In fact, this is why more expensive cuts of meat, like a good steak have the option of being rare or practically rare and seasoned very lightly or not at all- so you can taste the meat in all of its quality.
If you are grilling, barbecuing or not cooking your high quality meat at all, another thing that is recommended to taste the deliciousness is add a drizzle of olive oil, and not just any olive oil. According Dario Cecchini, the most famous butcher in the world, dress the meat with EXTREMELY good olive oil (or forget it he says… he is pretty blunt) and maybe a little salt and pepper (2006, Heat). Why would you do this? Well the healthy fat from the olive oil helps to carry the flavor molecules in the meats… so the question is, can you handle more flavor? If you’re looking for a particular recommendation, I personally love Olearia San Giorgio, L’Aspromontano Extra-Virgin Olive Oil, aka ASPRO for short. Happy grilling (or barbecuing, if you have the time)!
This blog was written by Elis Halenko.