Steven Raichlen's Barbecue! Bible

Mr. Steve Goes to Washington

Mr. Steve Goes to Washington

In June, Steven’s tour arrived in the nation’s capitol, where the “Professor of Barbecue” gave a lecture on this history of barbecue at the Library of Congress. It was a homecoming of sorts. Thirty years earlier, fresh out of college, Steven spent several weeks at the Library studying ancient cookery manuscripts in preparation for a year long research project on medieval cooking in Europe on a Watson Foundation Fellowship. Here Steven poses with Barbara at the podium where he delivered his lecture.

After the lecture, Steven and Barbara were given a private tour of the Library’s Rare Book Room, where Steven got to hold the book with the first written reference to barbecue in history. Written by an explorer/ colonial administrator named Gonzolo Fernandez de Oviedo y Valdez and published in Toledo, Spain, in 1526, the Natural History of the West Indies describes a wooden grate on tall posts over a fire–a device the Taino Indians called “barbacoa.” Steven tells the story in the introduction of BBQ USA, but to actually hold Gonzolo’s original book was one of the greatest thrills of his life. (The book is pictured on the left.) The book to the right shows an early picture of a Caribbean barbecue–reproduced below.

An early Caribbean barbecue. Notice how high the wooden grate is positioned over the fire. This helps keep the wood from burning and it also immerses the fish in fragrant clouds of wood smoke. Thus, from its earliest beginnings, smoke was the soul of barbecue.

Steven also stopped at the National Press Club, where he lectured on his travels on the world’s barbecue trail. Press Club chef Jim Swenson prepared a 5 course dinner based on recipes in Steven’s books. The highlight was a grilled “clam baked” made by combining Steven’s grilled lobster and grilled clams (How to Grill), grilled oysters and grilled artichokes (BBQ USA), and grilled corn (Barbecue Bible)–all brought together in a single dish.

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