Did You Barbecue on Memorial Day? What Kind Was It?

Holidays like Memorial Day, which serves as the traditional start of summer, are popular days for people to barbecue.

If you were fortunate enough to have the day off on Memorial Day, you may have attended a barbecue. (Note that spelling: even though the last syllable is pronounced like the letter Q, it’s written with the word cue, not que.)

There are two kinds of barbecue.

In the South, it usually refers to a specific kind of preparation of meat — beef, pork or chicken — that involves a thick sauce. In North and South Carolina, that sauce is typically mustard-based. In parts of North Carolina and other parts of the Deep South, it may be vinegar-based. Out west toward Texas and Oklahoma, you’re probably more likely to find a tomato-based formula for the sauce.

As a rule, I tend to prefer the mustard-based sauce, but I’ve also had barbecued pork and spare ribs with the tomato-based sauce that I enjoyed a great deal.

Outside of the South, the word barbecue refers to the act of using a grill to cook meat and vegetables over a fire. No sauce is required. Even in Australia, food grilled over a fire is said to be “on the barbie” for barbecue.

When I hear one of my friends talking about going to a barbecue with their family, I have to think for a moment where they’re from. If they’re not originally from the South, it seems they’re talking about just grilling (which is what we in the South call that kind of barbecuing.

Often, we have to think about the context of such a word to fully interpret its meaning as it was intended by the writer or speaker. Life shouldn’t be so hard, but sometimes, when it comes to our crazy English language, it can be.

When you use the word ‘barbecue,’ what do you mean: cooking over a fire or cooking in a thick sauce?

1 Comment

  1. Well, I’m not southern so many times barbecue means grilling around here. We do eat barbecue, however. We designate that we mean the food by calling it hamburger barbecue or pork barbecue, etc. Chicken barbecue is a bit different. It usually means grilling. Now I’m confusing myself. Let’s just say it’s a bit complicated and leave it at that.
    I am curious about a mustard-based barbecue sauce, though! We always have tomato-based and it isn’t my favorite. I’ll have to see if I can find a recipe for that kind.

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 27 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.