Editor’s Note: Right On ’Cue

Good barbecue (even the meat-free stuff) transforms us into ravenous birds of prey

Minnesota Monthly editor Reed Fischer eating barbecue ribs with the Bark and the Bite food truck in the background.
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.