Steven Raichlen's Barbecue! Bible

History Like You’ve Never Experienced It

History Like You’ve Never Experienced It

Steven kicked off his 2008 Barbecue Bible book tour with a lecture on the history of barbecue at Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. The visit was especially moving for Steven–when he was growing up, his dad, Sonny Raichlen, used to take him to the Museum of Natural History once a year.

Steven’s lecture and slide show cover nearly a million years of the history of barbecue. From an imagined scene of the first barbecue to the invention of the charcoal briquet and the kettle grill. The painting below shows the first of our fire-using ancestors, Homo Erectus, at a scene that would familiar to most of us today. Scientists believe that the first barbecues were opportunistic–that is, early man found meat “grilled” by a forest fire or lava flow.

This photo comes from Prehisto-Parc–a recreated Neanderthal village in the southwest of France. By now, man had learned not only how to use fire, but make it. Here’s how shish kebab was cooked 40,000 years ago.

As you know if you’ve read BBQ USA, our word “barbecue” comes from the Taino (Caribbean) Indian word, barbacoa. Here’s how a 17th century European artist imagined a New World cookout. Note the presence of alligator and snake.

As for the first written mention of “barbecue,” it occurred in this book–A Natural History of the West Indies, published by Gonzalo Fernando Oviedo y Valdes in 1526.

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