Sometimes being a food writer is a pinch-yourself job: You get to have experiences that make you pinch yourself to make sure you're not dreaming.
As an N.C. food writer, a lot of my pinch moments have involved barbecue. I once got to spend three days on the road by myself, eating at 17 barbecue joints, covering over 1,000 miles and crossing state lines twice. I've gotten to sit up all night minding whole pigs, I've shoveled coals with Boy Scout dads, and I've judged so many barbecue contests, I've lost count.
Late last fall, photographer Corey Lowenstein from the Raleigh News & Observer met me at the Skylight Inn in Ayden, way out on a two-lane road in Pitt County. Our newspapers share resources, which means building working relationships in whole new ways.
For myself, I just had to hold on to a notebook, watch everything that happened and not screw it up.
Photographers don't have it that easy. They have to haul equipment, clamber around in tight spots and get their faces and their lenses right down into the heart of things, no matter how hot or smoky. Corey was right in there for hours, doing an amazing job and bringing back some of the best barbecue photographs I think I have ever seen.
We writers get our names in big type on the tops of stories. Photographers get tiny little credits below their pictures. But they deserve much more, and Corey certainly earned recognition.
My story on the art and tradition of wood-cooked barbecue will be here for the next few days. Even if you skip reading it, you shouldn't skip the audio-slide show and the pictures by Corey.
Ms. Lowenstein, it was an honor doing business with you.