Young and Hungry

Y&H Talks to Joe Yonan About WaPo’s New Barbecue Column, Smoke Signals

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Jim Shahin at work

If you didn't read Jim Shahin's debut barbecue column, Smoke Signals, in yesterday's Washington Post, stop whatever you're doing right now and check it out. It's funny, it's well-reported, and it has to be one of the best Food Section debuts in years.

I'd say that even if Jim weren't my friend and the guy who feeds me large amounts of smoked meats on a regular basis.

Jim will not only be contributing a monthly barbecue column for the Post but he'll also be blogging weekly on the subject. I submitted a few questions to Food Editor Joe Yonan to see where he and Jim are headed with the column. Our brief Q&A is after that jump.

Y&H: What were the factors that made you think a barbecue column would work in the food section?

Joe Yonan: As Jim writes in his blog post today, it's become big business. We get questions about 'cue all the time, and I'm tempted to answer them given my own interest and experience with it, but in almost four years of pathetic outdoor-space-free life in DC, my skills have gotten rustier than a Weber after a hurricane.

Y&H: Will Jim venture into restaurants or stay focused on home barbecue?

JY: The column will be focused on home barbecue, but Jim will certainly be taking inspiration from the pros from time to time. Are you going to share your favorites with him, Carman?

Y&H: Will the column continue well into the winter months when the snow
is two feet deep?

JY: You're still scarred, aren't you? We'll play that one by ear. I don't want to put an expiration date on the column, because who knows what weather will be like in November and December, but we'll indeed take a break when/if it seems too ridiculous to fire up the smoker.

Y&H: Since you are a former Texan, is this just a selfish act on your
part? Did you launch the column so that Jim would be smoke you a Louie
Mueller
-style brisket once a month?

JY: Yep. And you're invited.

Just for the heck of it, I thought I'd ask Shahin himself similar questions, just to glimpse briefly into the editor/writer divide:

Y&H: What do you hope to do with the column in the coming weeks and months?

Jim Shahin: I hope to chronicle what I think is a true cultural phenomenon. I love barbecue. I love the politics of it, the history of it, the sociology of it.

Mainly, I just love eating it. I guess what I hope to do is engage the readers in both the practical aspects of cooking barbecue as well as some of the more abstract stuff that its incredible rise says about us. Barbecue is such a passionate subject, and there are so many facets to it,  I will learn more from the readers than they will from me.

Y&H: Will it focus exclusively on home cooking or will you venture into restaurants as well?

JS: With a weekly blog item, I expect it will cover some of the things going on in barbecue restaurants. I don't anticipate doing reviews. Nor do I know at this point how exhaustive the restaurant stuff will be. But it would be negligent of me, I think, not to cover the things going on in the restaurant world, as they help define the changes that are going on.

Y&H: Does Joe threaten to kill the column once a month unless you give him a smoked, Louie Mueller-style brisket?

JS: No comment.

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