While reading Jessica Harris’ In Sorrow’s Kitchen, there were many relatable things. Generally, the overall sadness of acknowledging the horrific injustice done to a group of people not even a century ago was enough to make me weary. I had the same dilemma — wanting to enjoy the twisted, romantic plot of Gone with the Wind, but having been made to watch Roots at a young age to “become more culturally aware”, know that the antebellum South was a lot less romanticized for people like myself.

This post could go in many, many directions. However, not having the energy to go down the rabbit hole, I’ll keep it light an focus on a recent topic of conversation between me and one of my best friends: cookouts vs. BBQs.

Desmond-Harris’ article, ‘Barbecue’ vs. ‘Cookout’: What Race Has to Do With It addresses a common cultural difference when it comes to summertime meals. As stated in the article,

“From barbecue’s origins in traditions surrounding the roasting of meat in West Africa to its role in plantation gatherings to its place in the story of the Gabriel Prosser rebellion and the Nat Turner insurrection (they both began with clandestine barbecues), Twitty says, “it’s an art form that was essentially in the hands of black cooks for centuries.”

This point is directly addressed in Harris’ work, saying “…there might be a barbecue. The cooks for these events were black men.” Reading through the following paragraph, I chuckled. Relating the enthusiasm of these men in preparing for the barbecue to members of my own family and the pride they took in “grilling out” I also noted that the barbecue was classified as an event and not just a meal. I think this may be one of the most notable differences that my friend and I discussed about cookouts and barbecues. For barbecues, there’s usually hours – days of preparation, a plethora of sides, multiple dessert options, music, family games, extended family you even forgot you had, etc. Every barbecue is literally like a miniature family reunion, cause for celebration.

In reading Harris’ work, it is clear to see the roots of this concept and why this meal and this event are associated with more than just eating. It’s about feasting — nurturing your mind, body, and soul. Surrounding yourself with the things that will help you recharge from a hard day’s work.

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