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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

The Living On Earth Almanac

Air Date: Week of

Facts about... Bar-B-Q.


CURWOOD: It's Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood.
Did you celebrate the Fourth by pulling out the old grill? The Nation's birthday is the most popular day for barbecues. More than 3/4 of American households now own one, and together we will light up nearly 3 billion times this year, and that's twice as much as a decade ago. Now, how did all this start? Well, the origin of the word 'barbecue' is unknown. Some say it comes from 'barbacoa,' , the word Taino Indians use for their meat- smoking apparatus. Others say it's French. "Barbe a queue" means "whiskers-to-tail," or the parts you're supposed to cook. Well, either way, the craze has spread quickly. Today, barbecue contests are held in Ireland, and Estonia. In the US, barbecuing got a boost in 1920, when Henry Ford accidentally invented the charcoal briquette, using wood scraps and sawdust from his car factory. We buy more than $400 million worth of charcoal each year. But that's changing, as places like California have banned the spraying of lighter fluid on charcoal grills. Today, the more environmentally friendly gas grill is the most popular way to barbecue in America. And for this week, that's the Living on Earth almanac.



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