Minnesota Monthly senior editor Reed Fischer
photo by casie beldo
“Barbecue may not be the road to world peace, but it’s a start,” celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain said in an episode of his globe-trotting food series, Parts Unknown. He was in Libya at the time, but his words apply equally to a backyard grill session, a ribs buffet, takeout from Bark and the Bite on hot pavement (above), a lakeside campfire feast, or wherever you choose to ’cue.
Where there’s smoke (and smoke flavor), there’s togetherness. And that’s despite the awkward jokes, lighter-fluid fumes, ice shortages, inferior coleslaw, and bloodsucking mosquitoes along for the ride. An open fire turns us into moths circling the flickering center, and good barbecue (even the meat-free stuff) transforms us into ravenous birds of prey.
Long after embers are extinguished and dry-rub dust is wet-napped from the corners of our mouths, a smell lingers—in our clothes, hair, car upholstery, you name it—as proof of something shared. A near-immediate hunger to taste it all again is proof of something essential. And barbecue’s never-ending interpretations by region and tradition are proof of something universal. We might not all want the exact same thing, but we know we want barbecue.