When I moved out to Napa Valley for the first time in 2000, a waiter I worked with invited me over to his house for a barbecue. I was homesick for Southern food, North Carolina chopped barbecue in particular–and the thought of this guy having a pit smoker at his apartment blew my mind a little bit. So imagine my disappointment when I showed up salivating for coleslaw, hush puppies, vinegar sauce, and white bread, only to find M____ on the porch of his apartment, grilling Hebrew Nationals over match-light briquettes, with ketchup and yellow mustard at the ready.
Here’s the point: a grill is a grill. When you cook food on a grill, it’s a cookout and nothing more. BARBECUE is not an event, not a spice, not a cooking apparatus, but a quasi-religious means of transforming animal flesh, usually pork but sometimes beef (if you’re in Texas), that is full of heritage and tradition and patience. Don’t be one of the Philistines who misuses the word “barbecue”—to my ears, it’s akin to pouring wine for a guest and saying, “Here’s your fruit juice, bud.”