What Is Barbecue? New York Governor Gets “Grilled” for Tweet
New York Governor Kathy Hochul is running for re-election in New York, and this weekend decided to tweet out a picture of her grilling burgers and hot dogs. The problem, though, was in her phrasing of the cookout.
There are plenty of issues with the tweet, not the least of which is referring to grilling as "barbecue." Hot dogs does go on the top rack as that's where buns go to get toasted. The patty she's attempting to flip looks severely undercooked. The grill marks on the other patties appear to be the only part of the meat that's cooked, but the grill itself doesn't look like it was properly cleaned.
And don't even get me started on a New York Democrat using a grill that isn't environmentally friendly.
Her Republican opponent, Rep. Lee Zeldin, took to Twitter along with many others online to criticize the photo op.
There are plenty of people who live in New York, though, that probably think this really is barbecue. However, that attitude is slowly changing in the Empire State.
New York Barbecue
Barbecue has been around since before Europeans landed on our continent's shores. In the days of the American colonies and after the American Revolution, it was adapted from indigenous peoples' use of low- and slow-burning fires with meat hanging from longer sticks near the smoke and hot coals.
Virginia is the birthplace of American barbecue as we know it. Big cookouts on plantations. In the book Barbecue: The History of an American Institution, Robert Moss explains it as such:
In was farther south, in Virginia, that the institution of barbecue took its strongest root in colonial America. Both as a food and as social event, barbecue was more consistent with the tastes of Virginians than with those of New Englanders, for reasons deeply rooted in the backgrounds of the colonists.
It spread to the Carolinas and then slowly to the rest of the country. In recent decades, it has started creeping back into New England, and New York itself has become the home of Texas-style barbecue in the north. It features larger cuts of meat (particularly brisket) smoked low and slow with little or no mop sauce.
New York City's barbecue scene, in particular, has exploded, with barbecue restaurants dotting the cityscape and offering foods previously hidden at or below the Mason-Dixon line. "New York barbecue" has become a term used in the city's food scene.
Barbecue In Politics
There has been a lot of barbecue in the American political scene, as Moss explained in his book.
Over time, the barbecue became part of the political sphere as well, and it was in Virginia that the first campaign barbecues were held. Election days in colonial Virginia were infrequent, occurring whenever the governor dissolved the Assembly or a member quit or died. Each county was allotted two seats in the House of Burgesses, the only real elected body in the colony. To choose their representatives, eligible voters would gather at the county courthouse, coming into town in wagons and on horseback from miles around. Elections were usually held on court days, when many men would already be traveling to the county seat to conduct business such as buying and selling land, slaves, and supplies.
The practice of "treating" - plying voters with liquor and food - was widespread, and though practiced discreetly, it became an indispensible component of a campaign.
In recent campaign cycles, though, the candidates who have made the same blunders Hochul is making ended up losing their spots. Cal Cunningham (no relation) ran for U.S. Senate in North Carolina and posted a picture of himself next to an unlit gas grill with a plate of hamburger and hot dog buns, calling it barbecue.
Barbecue in the Carolinas is extremely political. Politicians have lost major support for their comments. In the Carolinas, barbecue centers around pork - ribs, shoulder, and even whole hog - and never involves a gas grill.
Cunningham lost that Senate race.
In Virginia, the 2021 governor's race ended with a shocking Republican victory. Former Governor Terry McAuliffe was seeking office again and was up against Glenn Youngkin. On the 4th of July weekend that year, McAuliffe posted this video.
The grill is overloaded, and the burgers are too thick. That brand new spatula has clearly never been used. It was also widely-mocked online.
McAuliffe lost that race.
I'm not saying Kathy Hochul is going to lose her race, as New York is a deeply Democrat state. But I am not ruling out moving the governor's race from "Likely Democrat" to "Leans Democrat," because barbecue doesn't lie.