Helen Turner, proprietor of Helen's Bar-B-Que, a six-seat cafe set in a prefab metal shed in Brownsville, Tennessee, is a case in point. Female barbecue cooks were once few, but today women like Turner take their place among the masters of the pit. "It's kind of bad on my eyes sometimes," she said, referring to the wood smoke that clouds the pit room at the rear of her restaurant. "I cry every once in a while, but that's just how I make my living, so I just go ahead on." Instead of whole hogs, which would be harder to move around the pit, Turner works with shoulders. And though her husband, Reggie, helps out, the business is hers. And so is the pride she takes in her sandwiches, piled with smoke-blackened outside meat, capped with sweet slaw, and drenched in a cayenne-spiked sauce. My son, Jess, age 10, who visited Helen with me this spring, declared that sandwich to be his favorite taste of the past year.