Published June 10, 2021

Adrian Miller, author of Black Smoke: African Americans and the United States of Barbecue, discussed his new cookbook celebrating barbecue cookery and the role of African Americans in barbecue culture, in conversation with Leni Sorensen.

Watch the video from this event:

In Black Smoke, Miller chronicles how Black barbecuers, pitmasters, and restauranteurs helped develop this cornerstone of American foodways and how they are coming into their own today. It’s a smoke-filled story of Black perseverance, culinary innovation, and entrepreneurship. Though often pushed to the margins, African Americans have enriched a barbecue culture that has come to be embraced by all. Miller celebrates and restores the faces and stories of the men and women who have influenced this American cuisine. This beautifully illustrated chronicle also features 22 barbecue recipes collected just for this book.

“An engaging storyteller, Miller brings his subjects to vivid life, as in the chapter on Black barbecue entrepreneurship, which predates Emancipation, with enslaved men and women using their business proceeds to buy freedom. He explores what makes the Black barbecue aesthetic exceptional and the many complexities of etiquette…. [and] provides plenty of mouthwatering recipes by Black barbecue artists for sauce, meat and fish, and side dishes as well as profiles of unsung Black barbecue trailblazers across three centuries…. A highly entertaining, celebratory, and essential reader for history buffs and barbecue lovers alike.”—Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“Exuberant… studious but not stuffy… Miller never forgets that barbecue is, at its heart, about pleasure: about smoke, sizzle, and joy. Black Smoke is scholarship with a little sauce on its chin.”—Garden & Gun

Black Smoke [offers] sage advice, excellent recipes, and explore[s] the history of BBQ…. Miller teaches you about the Black pitmasters—both men and women—who have carried this tradition for so long.”—Martha Stewart

“Miller shows how Indigenous forms of barbecue in the Americas were received and absorbed by white colonial settlers, and how, in the southern United States, Black Americans have been the keepers of the barbecue flame, throughout the eras of slavery, Jim Crow, and the Great Migration. Miller also seeks out and showcases generations of pitmasters who are still at work; he highlights individuals from different U.S. geographic areas and different traditions of barbecue…. A must for serious barbecue scholars and a solid choice for any food historian.”—Starred Review, Library Journal

“While other barbecue books share knowledge in the form of recipes and steps, or history as told from a white perspective, Miller gets us closer to seeing the full picture, and to acknowledging that the story is richer, and more delicious, with these shared stories.”—Local Palate

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