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Black Smoke: African-Americans and the United States of Barbecue

Black Smoke: African-Americans and the United States of Barbecue


Adrian Miller
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You can hear Adrian Miller speak as part of our 92nd Street Y online programming. Buy tickets here.

Adrian Miller’s vivid, precise history of barbecue in the US stretches back to the days before Europeans set foot in North America and reaches the present day, admitting all the way that “defining barbecue, locally and globally, is highly dependent on time, place, class, race, and a fair amount of mythmaking.”

The roll of Black cooks and pit masters has been fundamental to American barbecue practice and tradition. But for several decades their contributions to this distinctive form of cooking has been, as Miller put it, “B-roll footage” in barbecue media. They might be seen doing the work but they were not credited with expertise.

As Miller addresses this imbalance, he clarifies the cultural importance of barbecue through the stories of past and current practitioners of the craft, from the enslaved Arkansas woman who earned enough from barbecue to purchase her freedom, to Henry Perry, credited with establishing the Kansas City style of barbecue. Telling the history of the US through cooks and food, he writes with clarity, insight, and scope.

Hardcover. Black-and-white illustrations throughout. Recipes as well.

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