Ellen & Edith Grayson
They have most anything you want (We prefer the local honey, peaches, squash, tomatoes, multi-colored carrots, kale, basil, peppers, new potatoes, sweet potatoes, broccoli. And the Amish butter, goat cheese and yogurt is the most delicious I’ve tasted this side of the Atlantic). Among the food you can find flowers, starter plants, natural oils, and soap (We buy from Alchemy of Sol). They’ve got the obligatory eggs, chicken, and beef also (No fish that I’ve seen). Bison even.
Going to market in this little Southern town is nostalgic for me, because as a child living in England (1983-1987), I used to go to market on Thursdays.
Thursday was market in England, an event in which concrete wastelands and empty fields were magically transformed into an aggressively bustling outdoor mall with hundreds of vendors peddling an unthematic combination of cheap plastic, cheap artwork, shiny metals, cheap electronics and, otherwise, authentically ethnic wares.
There were also the butchers who fell within the food vending category, walking around in their blood-soaked aprons, arranging fish frozen in various states of agony, chickens, pheasants and rabbits strung up by the feet in neat little rows by order of size, the sweet smell of game and blood I then associated with Sunday dinner.
There were also the fast food vendors who mostly sold food, much for which I never developed a taste during the four years I lived in the Commonwealth. I enjoyed the fish & chips generously sprinkled with salt, sopped with vinegar and wrapped in yesterday’s news. I also enjoyed the batter-fried rock (eel). I was too queasy to enjoy the blood pudding, and I was a baby when it came to unsugared custard which crowned many an English pudding.
So taking my kids to the market is important, and giving them money to go interact with vendors is the value I’d like them to get out of it. That’s one way I learned to interact with a large number of unpredictable personalities as a child.
Tarik was a giant Arab with each fist the size of my head. He accosted me at the Carterton Market in 1985. He was peddling batteries, thousands of them. I had never seen so many batteries at one time in my life, so I stopped. I had been walking up and down the makeshift aisles with five or so British pounds in my pocket, looking for something gaudy to buy.
We American kids, living in foreign countries, did not always follow military protocol when asked by strangers to reveal our national identity. We thought that identifying ourselves as American was a sure sign of immunity: you would be given attention, you could get free food, you were a credible source of all things American whether or not you knew anything about it.
People who once gave you blank stars of indifference would all of a sudden perk up with curiosity when they found out you were American. Better yet, tell them what state you were from, and they were all the more curious. My state, Florida, made people sick with jealousy, I suppose, because they envisioned sprawling beaches of white sand and sexy people throwing back their heads in laughter with nary a care in the world like they do in American commercials, dramatically downing Cokes in their short-shorts and scant bikinis.
“Yes, sir. I’m American.”
Tarik looked me up and down. Like a mean girl.
The Franklin Farmers Market isn’t the same. But it’s similar.
Thirty-two years later.