When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to break with the culinary traditions which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the superior cooking methodology to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all meats are created uncooked, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain undeniable Characteristics, that among these are Flavour, Texture and the potential for Deliciousness.–That to attain this potential, Procedures are performed by Men, deriving their results from the application of heat, –That whenever any new Procedure for Cooking becomes more likely to achieve these ends, it is the Right of the People to adopt it.
Thomas Jefferson, Barbecue Cookery, July 4, 1776
On July 4, 1776, Thomas Jefferson published Barbecue Cookery, the book that revolutionized cooking in the American colonies. Each year on July 4, Americans commemorate this masterwork by celebrating National Barbecue Day. Many of us celebrate the holiday in the traditional way: we visit our friends, bringing offerings of raw meat and cold beverages. The meat is used in an elaborate fire-based barbecue ritual, during which time some of the cold beverages are consumed. We then feast on cooked meat, more cold beverages, and possibly potato salad. Finally, we watch things blow up in the sky.
Barbecue Day wasn’t always this elaborate; in fact, the first Barbecue Day celebrations were quite simple and informal: people would get together with a few of their friends on or near July 4, try out one of the recipes from Jefferson’s book, and then go home. In 1870, Congress made National Barbecue Day an official US holiday, giving people time to plan lengthier celebrations, sometimes trying out multiple recipes or even creating their own.
Although it seemed like a good idea at the time, making Barbecue Day a national holiday had some unintended consequences. With an entire day now devoted to the celebration, some barbecue cooks felt pressured into trying newer, flashier recipes each year — and each year, there were more barbecue-related accidents. Municipalities around the country now organize fireworks displays each July 4 in solemn remembrance of those who have lost their lives in barbecue-related explosions.
Have a happy and safe National Barbecue Day, everyone. And remember: it’s never a good idea to set off fireworks in the car. Not even in the back seat.