Did you have a BBQ this weekend? My husband got a retro style table top bbq as a father’s day present. Very cute it is too.
Everyone went a bit gooey over its design which is loaded with nostalgia for a more wholesome past. Which got me thinking – when did we first start cooking in the garden – and what did bbq equipment look like in the past?
We in Britain have come late to the BBQ party but we are pretty keen outdoor cooks now, if sale of fancy equipment is anything to go by. The classic BBQ culture is generally thought to be that of the USA, where regions compete for the title of ‘original and best’.
No one knows for sure but it is believed that the Spanish brought the word back from South America during the time of the Conquest. It probably comes from the word the Taino Indian word ‘barbacoa’ meaning meat-smoking apparatus. ‘Barbecue’ could have also originated from the French word “Barbe a queue” which means whiskers-to-tail (but this is less likely).
There’s nothing new about the BBQ – even the Romans had portable ones. However, the one we recognise has its origins at the start of the 20th century. In the 1920s, Henry Ford, in collaboration with Thomas Edison and EB Kingsford, began making charcoal briquets commercially from wood scrap from the wood used to make cars parts in Ford’s Detroit auto plants. Ford also began selling small portable grills and promoted picnics and camping as a great use of automobiles.
If I was going to collect early bbq’s I think I would want to own one of these – in the 1930s the menswear store Abercrombie & Fitch began selling a portable grill in a suitcase made by J.M. Huntington Iron Works in La Canada, CA. Bet you didn’t know that!
I like this one too. Recognise it? It’s an original Weber. In 1951, George Stephen, Sr., was frustrated by his inability to control the heat in his backyard grill. He had the welders at the Weber Brothers Metal Works, where he worked, cut up a buoy that was to be used for Lake Michigan boating. Et voila – Weber Kettle was born and introduced in 1952. I imagine that this is an important collectors piece but if you have a modern one – you will be pleased to know you are a keeping a little flame of bbq history alive.
We are having the perfect BBQ heat wave – hope you get the chance to enjoy a bit of this summer fun.