Blackbeard's Big Barbecue

You may think barbecuing is as American as apple pie, but you may have pirates to thank for the word and the practice.

Barbecuing as a Pirate Pastime? 

Pig bones recovered from the wreck of Blackbeard's flagship, Queen Anne's RevengeThe word buccaneer describes a form of piracy where the sea bandits worked for the government of Caribbean island nations to attack Spanish fleets.  The term buccaneer was derived from the French "boucanier", which roughly translates as "someone who smokes meat" and also “boucain,” an apparatus for smoking meat used by pirates on the island of Tortuga near Hispaniola. 

Barbecuing became a favorite technique when the brethren of the coast took to land. Blackbeard threw a bash for the brotherhood on the southern tip of Ocracoke Island in September 1718.  It was described as a pirate festival which lasted “some days,” and in the crowd of scalawags there were musicians who provided the evening entertainment.

Browse More QAR Artifacts Related to Sustenance

An exciting new exhibit opening June 11 at the N.C. Maritime Museum in Beaufort will feature artifacts from the wreck of the world’s most notorious pirate, Blackbeard.  This will be the largest assemblage ever seen of artifacts from the wreck of his flagship, Queen Anne’s Revenge.

A Pirate's Bash

In his book Blackbeard the Pirate, Robert E. Lee writes about Blackbeard’s pirate bash, noting:

A number of hogs and cows were barbecued, and many of the fishermen and traders passing the inlet, upon seeing such a throng of people, stopped to trade with them and furnish them with fresh provisions.The visiting pirates had an ample supply of rum, and the punch bowl was never empty.

While that may sound like your kind of party, barbecuing was practical for pirates because there was no refrigeration in the 18th century, and barbecuing helped preserve the meat. Pirates also could store the barbecued meat in barrels to take aboard ship for consumption while at sea. They also transported live animals for food on long voyages. Among artifacts recovered at the Queen Anne’s Revenge shipwreck are pork and cow bones, often from animals less than one year old.

So as you fire up your grill for those steaks or ribs, give a nod to the sea robbers whose necessity for transience and freedom led to a prized cooking tradition and savory dining pleasures.

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