When John Lattuca opened his Montreal smokehouse last year he tried to be as literal as possible with the name. Some of Canada’s modern barbecue restaurants get cute with theirs – Calgary’s The Palomino, Barque in Toronto, Boneheads in Halifax – but he went with, simply, Lattuca Barbecue.
Yet customers still come in and expect him to cook them a hamburger. “We don’t grill. We barbecue,” Lattuca says, explaining that this is a uniquely Canadian mix-up. “There’s a problem with the definition of barbecue.”
In the United States, using a gas grill to cook burgers or steaks is called grilling, or “grilling out.” Southerners, especially, reserve the term “barbecuing” for the practice of cooking for a long time at a low temperature, using smoke from a wood fire.
Here in Canada, it’s the rare diner who knows to appreciate the differences between Lattuca’s Texas-style brisket (self-basted, salt-and-pepper crusted), North Carolina-style pulled pork (doused in vinegar-based barbecue sauce) and Kansas-style ribs (tomato- and molasses-based sauce). Canada is a country of grillers, confusing the smoky perfume, melting fat and gentle pull-apart tug of carefully barbecued meat with hot dogs and hamburgers thrown on the grill.