Sunday, September 14, 2008

Andrew Warnes' "Savage Barbecue"

Andrew Warnes is Senior Lecturer in American Literature and Culture at the University of Leeds. He is the author of Hunger Overcome? and Richard Wright's Native Son.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Savage Barbecue: Race, Culture, and the Invention of America's First Food, and reported the following:
Judging by some of the blogs that have appeared very recently, some readers are starting to see Savage Barbecue as one big anti-American rant, a kind of prolonged English sneer at vulgar and violent US ways. Page 99, I'm glad to report, shows that the truth is a bit more nuanced than that. Accompanied by one of the book's few photographs--a shot Arthur Rothstein took of a BBQ drive in Fort Worth in 1942--the analysis here is actually trying to complicate the anti-American belief that McDonaldization is the number one evil in the world, ruining everything it touches. I’m trying to suggest that this attitude (as much a hallmark of liberal America as Europe, I find) can’t quite cope with the phenomenon of the interwar barbecue joint, can’t quite figure out how such places managed to mix the usual American suspects—Coke cans, plastic cutlery, etc.—with the ethic and sheer grassroots passion of a fullblown culinary tradition. And I think this reflects the position I’m trying to take throughout this book. After all, my basic thesis is not that everyone who enjoys barbecue today is a genocidal maniac—though, of course, some may be. Rather, it is that, uniquely in the English vocabulary, barbecue began life as a verb for cannibal cookery, only subsequently entered the repertoire of cookbooks, and remains to this day haunted by a lingering, unacknowledged, barbaric association. But actually I quite like a bit of barbarism now and then!
Read more about Savage Barbecue at the publisher's website.

Learn more about Andrew Warnes' research and publications at his faculty webpage.

--Marshal Zeringue