In Durham, a Perfect Day at Ponysaurus With the Salt And Smoke Festival | Food

In Durham, a Perfect Day at Ponysaurus With the Salt And Smoke Festival

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A bright, cold, windy April afternoon. Ponysaurus Brewing Company. The Salt and Smoke Festival, outside of Carrboro for the first time. And you.

The event starts at four and you arrive on the dot, but everyone is already here, or so it seems. Maybe they never left? “Partysaurus!” the invitation promised after all.

The air is full of bluegrass, and the wind dances along with it. People flock toward the band and beneath heat lamps, where they sway this way and that, tap their feet, clap their hands. A toddler waddles toward the upright bass, holds it, strums.

Anyone who doesn’t have a beer is in line for one, so you join in. You are thirsty and don’t mind waiting, since, here, there seems to be no rush.

Inside, it is warm, and even more crowded—people and pitchers and peanuts, everywhere you turn. A bartender with rainbow-colored hair pulls the tap again, again, and again. You trade in your wooden beer token, get a Fig Saison, and carry it through the stream of people. You're careful, but it spills anyway.

You drink while you wander through the grass. If it was warmer, you would take off your shoes, and no one would mind. You stroll by the temporary tattoo parlor—pig stickers, kid customers—to reach the oysters. Their shells shimmer in the sunlight like pearls. A blonde woman in a baseball cap clips the ends and hands you a little metal bucket. You can shuck your own, she says, or you can have Tony do it. You look at the shuckers, then at Tony. You walk toward Tony.

His hands appear to flicker as he talks. The oysters are from Virginia and young with brittle shells—because the warm Southern water, he explains. You shiver and laugh. You pluck six half-shells from the ice and head to a wooden picnic table full of strangers who become new friends.

You douse the oysters in Texas Pete and squeeze a lemon wedge, too. You tip a shell to your lips. The meat is plump, briny, slippery. You toss another back, like a shot, and, suddenly, they’re all gone.

You ditch the shells. You pass by three children in one hula hoop, a chocolate lab tackling a poodle, a couple huddling or cuddling (hard to tell in this weather), and the Sympathy for the Deli food truck. You approach the pig cooker.

Metal and mammoth and breathing smoke, it seems alive. You stare and stand near its warmth until your lungs need to burst like balloons. The pitmaster opens the lid, fills a tray with meat, and hacks at it with a cleaver. There's a mop of sauce, a sprinkle of red spices, a shower of white. He’s on the move.

You follow, to the buffet—Hoppin’ John, speckled with black-eyed peas and tomatoes, breadcrumb-crusted mac and cheese, pork-braised collards, coleslaw, cornbread, and the pig. A man piles a mountain on your plate and asks if it’s enough. You laugh. There is pulled, tender meat and shards of fatty bark that crunch between your teeth.

Yes, you nod, more than enough.

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