So where does the term “barbecue” come from? In 1516, a Spanish explorer named Gonzalo Fernandez de Oviedo y Valdes encountered a band of Taino Indians cooking in this manner on the island of Hispanola–today, the Dominican Republic and Haiti.
Asked what they called the grill, they responded, “Barbacoa”. So the original meaning of the term barbacoa was, indeed, a grill. Note a couple of interesting things:
1. When your grill grate is made of wood, you have to position it high above the fire so it doesn’t burn.
2. In this position, you’re cooking with hot smoke as much as fire.
3. Hot smoke both flavors the fish and helps preserve it.
4. The term “barbecue” does not come from the French “de la barbe a la queue”–“from the beard to the tail”.
Stay tuned for more barbecue history lessons in the coming months.