The Story of Barbecue

Our Review of the Week spotlights the story of a quintessentially American tradition

Barbecue : a history

Miller, Tim. Rowman & Littlefield, 2014
197p bibl index afp, 9781442227538 $38.99, 9781442227545 $37.99

In this, his first book, Miller (history, Labette Community College) explores a seemingly innocuous topic that is in fact steeped in so much lore and argument that even the definition of barbecue is hotly debated in some circles. This book, part of “The Meals” series, outlines history, delves into cultural impacts, and also provides some recipes. Overall, the book is mostly successful in handling a topic the author admits is a bit “slippery.” The opening pages explain that barbecue may be considered a food, a way of cooking, or a type of gathering. Miller addresses it as all three, thus massively increasing the book’s scope. Sometimes the book departs to tangentially related topics, such as sides served at events, a few short lists of pop culture references, and other items that may have been omitted. However, the author admirably describes barbecue from a sociological perspective, particularly its role in the segregated South where barbecue restaurants were one of the few places where races would mix. It is a somewhat dry but serviceable book that could complement other more dynamically written treatments, such as Michael Pollan’s Cooked (CH, Nov’13, 51-1453) or Lolis Elie’s Smokestack Lightning (1996), on a library shelf.

Summing Up: Recommended. All undergraduate and culinary institute food history collections.
Reviewer: B. L. Brudner, Curry College
Subject: Science & Technology – History of Science & Technology
Choice Issue: Mar 2015