Look to global influences for flavors that spice up what's on the barbecue.
The most widely known barbecue sauce in this country is based on tomatoes or ketchup and is boosted with everything from brewed coffee, to a good dollop of mustard, to a slug of bourbon. But other types of 'cue sauces abound, too, offering a world of different flavors.
The first that comes to mind is the light texture 'cue sauce made with grapefruit, lemon juice and herbs, popular in Guadeloupe and Martinique in the French West Indies. This refreshing sauce is brushed on fish, shrimp and chicken as it grills, providing a delightfully tangy but burnished flavor.
Years ago on my home turf in southern Alabama, a similar 'cue sauce made with mayonnaise, cider vinegar and a heavy sprinkling of black pepper was slathered on chicken or pork or fish as soon as it was lifted off the grill. This elegant sauce reigned as 'Bama Barbecue Sauce.
There also are barbecue partisans who want nothing more as a sauce than a dash of cider vinegar mixed with chopped hot peppers and a clove or two of crushed garlic. They use this simple sauce to baste beef brisket or loin of pork.
But there is more:
Barbecue sauce fanciers also square off into the sweet vs. hot-and-spicy camp, both diehard in their culinary positions.
The sweet devotees lace their sauce with a good pour of sugar, honey, molasses or maple syrup, while the other 'cue aficionados go heavy on herbs, garlic, spice and hot peppers, shying away from a sweet touch.
In that same vein, the hot-and-spicy camp lace their 'cue sauce with finely chopped hot cayenne or habanero peppers, rather than with the milder jalapeño peppers. Jamaica's wonderful hot chile pepper-infused jerk sauce, comes quickly to mind.
And here is another version: Many diehard 'cue lovers first coat a slab of ribs or a pan of chicken with a dry rub made with crushed seeds, herbs and spices and marinate for a while. They then brush the chicken or ribs lightly with a 'cue sauce during the grilling or baking, a kind of gilding of the lily.
These 'cue lovers offer the explanation that the rub imparts flavor while the sauce provides moisture. Thank goodness!
Joyce White is the author of "Brown Sugar" and "Soul Food." Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.