In recent years, thanks to the arrival of the Big Apple Barbecue Block Party and the opening of serious barbecue joints like Blue Smoke and Hill Country, New York City has awakened to the joys of slow-smoked barbecue. But this is hardly the first time that Gothamites have enjoyed pit-cooked meat.
New York's first barbecue took place way back in 1860, during the presidential campaign that pitted Stephen A. Douglas against Abraham Lincoln. In early September, the Douglas Central Campaign Club announced that it had procured a hog, a heifer, two sheep, and a giant ox from Kentucky and would stage a "Monster Democratic Rally, Grand Political Carnival, and Ox Roast." The event was to be held at Jones's Wood at the edge of Manhattan, which stretched between what is now 66th and 75th Streets. The ox was paraded through the streets of New York for two days in advance to generate interest.
The assembled crowd didn't seem to mind. When "feeding time" was announced, they degenerated into a shouting mob. Hungry men burst through the pine fences around the serving area, overturning tables, scattering bread and crackers, and seizing whatever hunks of meat they could get their hands on. It took three hundred policemen to restore order so that Stephen Douglas could take to the platform for his stump speech.
"Nothing like it in politics ever occurred here before," The New York Herald concluded. It would be many years before another political barbecue was attempted in the Big Apple.
Today's installment comes courtesy of Robert Moss, a food writer and restaurant critic for the Charleston City Paper and author of "Barbecue: the History of an American Institution". Follow him on Twitter at @mossr.
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