Pound of steamed shrimp from the Provision Company at Holden Beach, NC.
The North Carolina State Farmer’s Market is one of those places that looks the same as an adult as it did when you were a kid. Hundreds of people, dressed from Sunday best to faded overalls, meandering through the rows and filtering between one another, occasionally stopping for an especially juicy looking peach sample presented hastily on a plastic fork. It’s loud, but not in the stressful way one might think. It’s young girls working for their Daddy’s farms advertising watermelon (2 for the price of 1), the anticipation of finally getting to the front of the peony line and thinking the man won’t be able to hear you over the crowd.
Everyone moves at their own pace, some are seasoned with lists indicating their agenda for the day as they nod to the more familiar vendors they’ve written checks for in the past. Some are just visiting for the sport of it, pausing at every tasting opportunity and discussing amongst themselves which strawberry selection was actually as ripe as it claimed to be. Fruitful shoppers lug recyclable bags of green tomatoes, sugar snap peas, and red peppers. Less food-minded purveyors pause at a booth displaying perfectly styled terrariums, minute little worlds encased in glass thin enough to make you nervous as you carry it back to the car.
Across the parking lot, sticky tablecloths and the scent of hot oil call to lunch-goers who wander over. It’s easy to spot a new customer at the seafood restaurant, as indicated by their assumption that they will actually find a typical definition of a restaurant through the building doors. There are industrial sized trash cans, slips of paper limp with humidity and grease indicate the number of your order. Styrofoam trays heaping with steaming fried shrimp and scallops are continually passed across the counter, each lid squeaking as it strains to hold against the sheer mass of food behind it. There is no regard for the partitions in the trays: hush puppies, slaw, and the golden battered pieces of seafood are all piled together as if the kitchen had forty trays to fill at once, which is entirely possible on any given Saturday.
You never really need to find an excuse to run up to the Farmer’s Market, necessities in everyday life practically require a weekly visit. Where else can you go get your shrimp burger fix, flowers for a friend’s birthday, and the vegetable for dinner all in one fell swoop?