Smoked Out: Tracing Barbecue’s Exodus out of the South and onto the National Palette

Authors: Laurel Teal*, Boston College
Topics: Historical Geography, Cultural Geography, Regional Geography
Keywords: History, geography, foodways, barbecue
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 5:20 PM / 7:00 PM
Room: Galerie 3, Marriott, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This geographic history explores the food route made by barbecue across the United States on its path to nationalization from the end of the Civil War to the early 21st Century. This time period is especially fascinating for a variety of reasons. It was during the late 1800s and early 1900s that barbecue developed the regional tastes we recognize today, while at the same time becoming regularly enjoyed across social-economic lines throughout the entire country: a national food, as well as a local one. Specifically, it was during this time that the food capitals of Kansas City, Memphis, Texas, and the Carolinas developed their own variations on spice and smoke. These local flares occurred as a result of accessible trade rivers, local flora and fauna, climate, and the arrival of immigrants from other states and countries. At the same time, the stereotypically Southern and Western and taste for smoked, slow-cooked meat finally entered the Northeast—making barbecue a national dish. Ultimately, in tracing the food route made by barbecue across America on its way to nationalization--and what a map that route makes!--one becomes acquainted with the ways the United States attempted to become a true union as well. To see how food bridges the divides of geography, politics, race, and social-economic status is to witness how a national identity can do the same.

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