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  1. #1
    Bourbonian of the Year 2011
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    Burgoo [was: \"Wanted: Homemade Bourbon BBQ Sauce Recipe]

    "nothing like the wonderful burgoo I was treated to at the Talbot Tavern!"

    I was trawling through some old posts and found a short string mentioning burgoo, and above is a quote from one of Mark's postings praising the burgoo of Talbott's.

    I fancy myself an amateur food historian and usually I can figure out, if not the exact origin of a dish, at least the country it likely came from. E.g., clearly (New England) cobblers and grunts were English regional foods, the names may have changed along the way but I reckon cobblers are known in some remote town still in Yorkshire, England or one of the Shires..

    But I can't figure out burgoo. Since it is a kind of stew, as I write this, I am wondering now if it is a variant spelling and pronunciation of the French, "ragout", meaning stew. Lots of French trappers must have tramped through Kentucky before settlement occurred. Could the old French ragout have been corrupted into "burgoo"? Words often get turned around a bit and this sounds plausible to me. The word burgoo doesn't sound English, Gaelic, German, or American Indian. Where the heck did it come from? (Everything comes from somewhere, at least in part). Does anyone know, or have another theory of the origin of this word? I have had burgoo occasionally in Kentucky and enjoyed it a lot. Some of the older posts speak of bourbon being good to add to burgoo, which sounds like a positive notion.

    My problem with a French origin theory is, why would burgoo only be known (if such is the case which I think it is) in Kentucky? The French explorers went all over North America and left plenty of French place names to prove it, Detroit, Coeur d'Alene, Des Moines, Louisville, etc.

    Who makes burgoo in our crowd, Bobby does your family make one?

    Gary

  2. #2
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    Re: Wanted: Homemade Bourbon BBQ Sauce Recipe

    Could burgoo be a compound word, a combination of "bourbon" and "ragout" - abbreviated over time to, "bour-gout"..? I think this is possible except the burgoos I had in Kentucky did not have bourbon added (as far as I know). I think (with due modesty) I may be on to something here..

    Gary

  3. #3
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    Re: Wanted: Homemade Bourbon BBQ Sauce Recipe

    I recently read a mention of burgoo in one of Patrick O'Brian's excellent Jack Aubrey (aka, Master and Commander) novels, Post Captain.

    O'Brian is lauded for his meticulous research, so I am sure the reference has basis in fact. The book is set in the British Navy, circa 1800.

    Tim

  4. #4
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    Re: Wanted: Homemade Bourbon BBQ Sauce Recipe

    Thanks, Tim.

    Is this author American or British (or Irish)?

    When he refers to burgoo is it in the context of the Southern U.S., e.g., British navy men encountering the dish there? Or is it presented as part of the British navy mess? If latter this may mean the term is a British expression, maybe an old English regional food name which the navy spread to certain parts of the world. I could see Englishmen turning "ragout" into "burgoo" through how the foreign word sounded to their ears, but Southerners might have done this too.

    Could the word burgoo have an African or African-American origin..?

    Gary

  5. #5
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    Re: Wanted: Homemade Bourbon BBQ Sauce Recipe

    I can do a little research and find the background of the author.

    But, in the novel, the burgoo was served as part of a meal to the British naval officers. And, in the previous novel, but not in this one, they had only the slightest contact with Americans. The main subject is the conflict with the French and Spanish revolving around Napoleon.

    Tim

  6. #6
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    Re: Wanted: Homemade Bourbon BBQ Sauce Recipe

    Thanks, I should have thought of this first but a quick web search pulled up www.burgoo.org which gives information on its history. A British origin is offered as likely, which ties in to your suggestion, Tim. Also, it is mentioned ragout may be the origin too, even bulgher (the wheat), which sounds unlikely unless burgoo is a shortened form of "bulghur ragout". All these ideas may be true, however and relate in some way. Many French words entered the British culinary lexicon in altered form. There are hundreds of examples, I'll give only one: kickshaws is, or was, a kind of appetizer or small meal, it comes from "quelque chose", or "something". I could see English officers mangling the word "ragout" after a rum or two (or in jest) to form, "burgoo". The Oxford dictionary considers it an old British term for a thin gruel or soup again with a naval connection. And the site makes it clear there are centers of burgoo interest in the States outside of Kentucky, e.g., Illinois. But why would an old naval dish end up far inland in Kentucky..? One of the mysteries of food history.. In Quebec, a British naval dish brought to the Quebec City and Montreal ports was "sea pie", a dish cooked on a ship, a boiled dish with a topping of suet pudding. It could involve fish but more generally meat. This is known today in Quebec as "cipaille". It is a Quebec French word now but derives from the English sea pie.

    Gary

    N.B. Through the miracle again of the web I discern that in Vancouver, Canada there is a restaurant called Burgoo which specialises in stews. Its menu can be perused on-line and the stew line-up sounds great. Kentucky Burgoo is first on the list and the recipe sounds like a good one (including pork, chicken, various vegetables). Beef Burgundy is listed, so are various East Indian lentil and other dishes. It all sounds great and don't we (many of us) live in a multi-cultural world..?

  7. #7
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    Re: Wanted: Homemade Bourbon BBQ Sauce Recipe

    Gary, your powers of research seem to far exceed mine. Excellent info!

    Tim

  8. #8
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    Re: Wanted: Homemade Bourbon BBQ Sauce Recipe

    Not exceed, Tim, you were the one who twigged me to the U.K. connection!

    Gary

  9. #9
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    Re: Wanted: Homemade Bourbon BBQ Sauce Recipe

    If one follows your link , Gary , and also goes to the" What is Burgoo anyway" They will find this picture. I couldn't resist, It looks as if Craig Beam could also cook up a little Burgoo!
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Click image for larger version. 

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  10. #10
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    Re: Wanted: Homemade Bourbon BBQ Sauce Recipe

    Yes I saw it and it's a great picture mostly because it's real. Such expressions of tradition are often to be found in areas where (to state the obvious) change comes more slowly than other places. Not to say being real doesn't exist in many contexts, and also (or what comes to saying the same thing) there are many kinds of communities - our online forum here provided courtesy of Jim Butler is one I value very highly.

    Gary

 

 

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