http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld ... -headlines
From the article...
Blackwood Station, N.C. — THE moon was high over the loblolly pines when Keith Allen arrived for work at 2 a.m. He built a fire of hickory logs, and a plume of rich blue smoke creased the black night sky.
When the fire had produced glowing red coals, Allen shoveled them into a pit below two dozen hog shoulders on a metal rack. For the next nine hours, he shoveled more coals, stoked the fire, and turned the shoulders as they cooked a ruddy, smoky brown.
Long after first light, he was still at it. With a cleaver in one hand and a knife in the other, he chopped the pork with a rhythmic whump, whump, whump. Then he plunged two gloved hands into the steaming meat to mix in a homemade sauce of vinegar, salt and red pepper.
And that, for purists, is the long, hard, wearying way of making genuine pit-cooked Eastern North Carolina chopped barbecue.
Not many people do it this way anymore. Most of the state's barbecue restaurants have switched to gas or electric cooking, which is cheaper, faster and cleaner. Most now chop North Carolina's signature meal with electric grinders and season it with bottled sauce.
Allen, a tall, silver-haired, second-generation barbecue cook, insists that barbecue that isn't cooked in a pit over hickory coals and chopped and flavored by hand isn't really Carolina barbecue. He devotes most of his waking hours to that ideal.
Five days a week, Allen works from 2 a.m. to well past dark, preparing every bite of barbecue served at Allen & Son, a small roadside joint on a winding highway north of Chapel Hill. When Allen takes a day off or goes on vacation, the restaurant closes. He won't let anyone else make his barbecue. He never sits down for a meal of barbecue — not even his own, preferring to keep his palate pure for taste-testing.
"What you're chasing is that flavor," he said, pronouncing it "flay-vuh" in his silky Tar Heel accent. "If you don't do it right, you won't get it."
"BARBECUE lovers from almost every state have eaten at Allen's restaurant since it opened 37 years ago. Some customers have flown in private jets from New York and California just to eat there, Allen says, and food celebrities Martha Stewart and Rachael Ray have featured his barbecue.
If you call the restaurant and request mail-order barbecue, Allen will ship it frozen. But he doesn't have a website and doesn't advertise or take reservations. He doesn't own a cellphone.
Some customers have been eating here for more than 30 years. Kenny Snyder, chomping on a barbecue sandwich, said he's in his 25th year. He and several friends have sampled a dozen barbecue joints in the area over the years, he said, and Allen & Son has been the hands-down winner every time.
"He cooks it the old way — the right way," Snyder said. "It's coarsely chopped, not that fine stuff you get in other places. And it's clean, with none of that junk in it."
At $5.35 for a sandwich (with one side order) and $8.95 for a meal, Allen's barbecue is pricier than most. But he says the price reflects the costs — in effort and ingredients — he puts into it.
Allen, 55, was born and raised on a one-horse farm just a few miles down the highway, the son of a barbecue man, the grandson of an illiterate farmer. He has never heard of the slow food movement, the trendy style of patient cooking with natural ingredients, but he embodies its principles."