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A Short History of Barbecue in America

Title Details

Pages: 280

Illustrations: 205 b&w and color images

Trim size: 7.500in x 9.500in



Pub Date: 06/01/2019

ISBN: 9-780-8203-3841-5

List Price: $34.95

Subsidies and Partnerships

Published with the generous support of Thomas and Catherine Fleetwood


A Short History of Barbecue in America

A guided tour into the colorful past of the Great American Food, with vintage art and recipes

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  • Description
  • Reviews
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Barbecue: It’s America in a mouthful. The story of barbecue touches almost every aspect of our history. It involves indigenous culture, the colonial era, slavery, the Civil War, the settling of the West, the coming of immigrants, the Great Migration, the rise of the automobile, the expansion of suburbia, the rejiggering of gender roles. It encompasses every region and demographic group. It is entwined with our politics and tangled up with our race relations.

Jim Auchmutey follows the delicious and contentious history of barbecue in America from the ox roast that celebrated the groundbreaking for the U.S. Capitol building to the first barbecue launched into space almost two hundred years later. The narrative covers the golden age of political barbecues, the evolution of the barbecue restaurant, the development of backyard cooking, and the recent rediscovery of traditional barbecue craft. Along the way, Auchmutey considers the mystique of barbecue sauces, the spectacle of barbecue contests, the global influences on American barbecue, the roles of race and gender in barbecue culture, and the many ways barbecue has been portrayed in our art and literature. It’s a spicy story that involves noted Americans from George Washington and Abraham Lincoln to Louis Armstrong, Elvis Presley, Martin Luther King Jr., and Barack Obama.

I’ve read just about every barbecue book there is. I have thought that I’ve readjust about every part and parcel of barbecue history, myth, and arcana, but Jim Auchmutey’s Smokelore shares tales and tidbits that I’ve never come across. Auchmutey writes with wit, taste, and a knack for good storytelling.

—Rien Fertel, author of The One True Barbecue: Fire, Smoke, and the Pitmasters Who Cook the Whole Hog

With years of learning (worn lightly), heaps of quirky facts, sprightly and engaging prose, and page after page of delightful illustrations, Smokelore is a major contribution to barbecultural studies. My only reservation is the author’s annoying failure to capitalize Southern and Southerner.

—John Shelton Reed, author of Barbecue: A Savor the South Cookbook

With Smokelore, Jim Auchmutey marvelously guides us through the fascinating, wonderous world of American barbecue—its colorful past, its vibrant presence, and glimpses of its global future. Auchmutey is a skillful storyteller who does much to sort out fact from fiction about what we now know about barbecue. Smokelore is essential reading for anyone seeking a comprehensive, well-illustrated, and enjoyable look at barbecue culture in the United States.

—Adrian Miller, James Beard Award-winning author and certified barbecue judge

Jim Auchmutey's barbecue education has been a lifelong endeavor. Fortunately for the rest of us, he's sharing the unvarnished history of America's native cuisine in Smokelore. He uses our relationship with barbecue as a lens to explore American values, both virtuous and vile. While there's more to this book than meat cooked over fire, Auchmutey has left plenty on the bone for us all to sink our teeth into.

—Daniel Vaughn, barbecue editor of Texas Monthly

From eighteenth-century political events to the lines at twenty-first-century Korean barbecue food trucks, Smokelore offers a brief but comprehensive and eminently readable look at one of America’s enduring culinary obsessions. The lavishly illustrated tome spreads a Rabelaisian feast of information for the novice and expert alike that you’ll want to dip into again and again.

—Jessica B. Harris, author of High on the Hog: A Culinary Journey from Africa to America

Barbecue has a backstory that's as big as America. Smokelore tells that tale entertainingly. This book really captures the fun and colorful history of our true national food.

—Carolyn Wells, cofounder of the Kansas City Barbeque Society

Smokelore is a feast for the eyes, extensively illustrated with color photographs, menus, and advertisements that capture the vibrant history of American barbecue.

—Robert Moss, Southern Living

Auchmutey brings a scholar’s nose for research to Smokelore, but his conversational tone and playful tangents make it an entertaining and enlightening read. Where else would you find a lengthy barbecue playlist that includes Elvin Bishop’s 'Barbecue Boogie,' Bo Carter’s 'Pig Meat Is What I Crave' and Outkast’s 'Skew It on the Bar-B'?

—Suzanne Van Atten, Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Beautifully illustrated with a riot of barbecue memorabilia and including a few solid recipes, Smokelore is a must-have for anybody who cares about the ’cue. In other words, pretty much all y’all.

—Chuck Reece, Bitter Southerner

Smokelore isn’t a cookbook, a barbecue travelogue or an academic tome, although it has elements of all those. At 280 pages, it’s a lavishly illustrated popular history with 50,000 words of text, 26 recipes and 208 pieces of artwork — mostly vintage photos and amusingly retro magazine ads. It’s fun. It’s also serious history. That’s Jim Auchmutey’s secret sauce — powerful, good-hearted truth-telling — whether he’s writing about the smoke of war or the smokelore of a nation.

—Charles McNair, Georgia State University News

The research is most evident where the book covers the many styles of barbecue in the country. Rather than glossing over the question of African-American contributions to barbecue, the book takes a chapter to study the sometimes racist history of barbecue and the influence of the enslaved pitmasters on the way we eat today.

—Daniel Vaughn, Texas Monthly

Jim Auchmutey’s new book, Smokelore, is a wonderful history of the South’s (and maybe our nation’s) favorite food: barbecue. And his research proved, with blinding clarity, that the connection between barbecue and politics has been part of the American story since the beginning.

—Bitter Southerner

Auchmutey examines barbecue through the lenses of politics, race, gender, regional variety and other filters, and takes the reader on a rambling journey through a mouthwatering series of historic barbecue emporiums around the country where delectable meat dishes are prepared over open coals, often in picturesque settings by colorful pit masters with generations of barbecue secrets lodged in their heads.

—Don Schanche Jr., Washington Post

Auchmutey takes an inclusive approach, exploring barbecue as a backyard phenomenon, a part of American popular culture, and a way to examine race in America.

—Kimberly Harper, State Historical Society of Missouri


25 Books All Georgians Should Read, Georgia Center for the Book

About the Author/Editor

JIM AUCHMUTEY spent twenty-nine years at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution as a reporter and editor, twice winning the Cox Newspaper chain’s Writer of the Year award. His food writing has been honored by the James Beard Foundation, the Association of Food Journalists, and the Sigma Delta Chi journalism society. He is coauthor of The Ultimate Barbecue Sauce Cookbook and author of The Class of ’65: A Student, a Divided Town, and the Long Road to Forgiveness. He lives in Georgia and descends from a long line of pitmasters.