by David Cecelski
The thing I like best about Pete Jones’ Skylight Inn in Ayden, in Pitt County, is its stubborn clarity of purpose. On my way to the farm yesterday, I stopped at the legendary ‘cue joint probably for the first time in 20 or 25 years. The menu hadn’t changed a bit: only barbecue, slaw, and slices of a thin, baked cornbread. When I was there, the pitmaster, an older black man, was in the woodlot out back. He was loading a wheelbarrow full of wood and taking it into the little cinderblock building where he does the cooking. Tongues of fire licked the pit’s mouth. By 11 in the morning, the parking lot was full and a line of customers reached from the counter to the front door: farmers straight out of the fields, mechanics in their overalls, men in suits and ties. A sign outside says Jones’ family has been cooking barbecue in Pitt County since 1830.