(CNN)After moving to Atlanta from New York years ago, it quickly became evident I had a language problem.
I embraced "y'all" with ease for its gender neutrality. Sweet tea somehow made sense, too. But it took years for me to let go of the habit of declaring a "barbecue" every time I decided to cook hamburgers, steaks or hot dogs on the grill.
A friend from Memphis was the first to call me out. Surely, I meant I was going to "grill out," he said.
Barbecue involves slabs of meat cooking for hours -- in a grill, in a smoker or maybe in the ground, depending on one's level of enthusiasm. Grilling meat or vegetables for minutes at a time, he said, does not a barbecue make.
It would take years for me to see it his way (or, more likely, give up the fight) after learning what barbecue means to the South. There are rankings and contests and immutable beliefs about who does it best, all dependent on where you live and who your parents are -- much like the origin of my linguistic confusion.
An email from my mother about her Memorial Day weekend says it all: "We had our first barbecue of the season: hot dogs, hamburgers and marinated chicken."
Whether you call it barbecue, BBQ or Q, it's more than a way of cooking, it's myth, folklore, and American history, to quote culinary historian Sylvia Lovegren. Rather than rehash all that grist and grizzle, let's look at something fairly basic: the difference between grilling and barbecue.
'Low and slow'
Experts at the Atlanta Food and Wine Festival offe