A favorite American pastime and a summer tradition for many, barbecues have a long and surprisingly patriotic history.
They began when a human ancestor called Homo erectus began cooking meat with fire about 1.8 million years ago, according to Planet Barbecue (Workman Publishing, 2010). But barbecues the way that Americans know them now meat cooked over a grill or pit, covered in spices and basting sauce originated in the Caribbean.
The word barbecue comes from the language of a Caribbean Indian tribe called the Taino. Their word for grilling on a raised wooden grate is barbacoa. The word first appeared in print in a Spanish explorer’s account of the West Indies in 1526, according to Planet Barbecue.
Since then, the popularity of barbecues has spread like wildfire. The history of barbecuing in America dates to colonial times, and it has been a part of American culture ever since. In fact, one of the first laws enacted in the colony of Virginia during the 1650s forbade the discharge of guns at a barbecue.