A History of BBQ: Then & Now

A History of BBQ: Then & Now

In the midst of a pandemic, your summer barbecue will likely look quite a bit different this year. However, our understanding of ‘barbecue’ has gone through many transformations over the years, and 2020 brings with it a new iteration: the socially distant BBQ.


Since you’re now allowed to hold (socially distanced) outdoor gatherings, there’s no better way to bring your family and friends together in a safe way than a good old’ BBQ. Yes, it won’t look the same as previous years, but the quality of food and the quality of people you share it with remains just as great.


Need more convincing? Read on to learn the history of BBQ and what this summer holds for the grilling tradition.


A Brief History of BBQ

Although the word ‘BBQ’ connotes all-American summer days spent grilling burgers and hot dogs, the grilling tradition actually originated far from North America. In fact, ‘barbecue’ wasn’t even the word originally used to describe what we know at BBQ today. Centuries ago, in the West Indies, locals grilled meats and vegetables on a raised wooden grate and called it ‘barbacoa’. The earliest record we have of this practice is from a Spanish explorer’s account in 1526. However, it is likely that this practice was used well before that time period.


Over time, as humans travelled, fought, and encountered different people groups, they picked up on different culinary traditions. As a result, each corner of the world began to do ‘barbecue’ differently. In Peru, for example, locals grilled volcanic rocks over a fire part in a traditional grilling technique they call Pachamanca.


Photo courtesy of Uber Eats


By the 1800s, barbecue (as we know it today in Canada) had become commonplace in the Southern states of the US. This is partially due to the fact that BBQ is delicious – but it also has to do with the fact that there were many pigs in that region, and you can create delicious pork dishes using your barbecue. From then on out, the use of BBQ spread like wildfire.


In the 1950s, BBQ began to take off in Canada. Although it took awhile for us to get grillin’ up North, we have since seen a vibrant BBQ history, with different regions of the country having their favourite barbecued dishes.


Today’s chapter of BBQ history involves all our favourite dishes – like steak, ribs, and burgers – but requires extra precaution in the preparation and serving of these fan favourites.


How to Safely Host Summer Barbecues in 2020


Ideally, you’d be having your summer barbecues surrounded by your friends, family, and neighbours (as well as their kids, pets, and plus ones). Although that is not a possibility in the current COVID climate, there are other ways you can socialize and enjoy grilled goodies while social distancing.

Idea 1: Make it a fun family night

Although you’ve likely spent almost every dinner with the people you’re quarantining with, why not spice it up a bit by putting some extra effort into it? Choose a day when the weather’s good, and plan out a menu that includes both new recipes as well as your favourite dishes. Just because not all the restaurants are open doesn’t mean that you can’t have a restaurant-quality dinner at home!

Idea 2: Have a socially-distanced BBQ

At the time of writing, socially-distant gatherings of under 50 people are allowed in outdoor locations in Alberta. That means you can host a BBQ in your backyard, on your block, or even at a nearby park, provided that everyone stays two metres from one another. After not seeing your friends and family for what could be months, this safe sort of an event is a great way to bring everyone together – and what better way than with some delicious grilled treats!

Idea 3: Host a B-Y-O-BBQ picnic

If you want to be extra safe with your summer barbecue, why not have an outdoor picnic? After all, if each person stays on their separate blanket, and brings their own BBQ goodies, you significantly reduce your chances of transmitting or contracting COVID-19 during your picnic. Turns out that safety and savoury food go great together!


Photo courtesy of Los Angeles Times


Need some meal inspiration for your next BBQ? Check out our recent blog on comfort food recipes.


Need some new tools for BBQ season? Check out our recent blog on summer BBQ accessories.

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  • Taylor Mitchell