Going home by way of the Farmers Market

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 14, 2015

By Sara Hill

For the Salisbury Post

I went to the Farmers Market a few Saturdays ago to buy some corn, green beans, tomatoes and cucumbers. I got there around 8:30 a.m., too late for the first truckload of Miller’s fresh corn. The sign on the table said they would have another load of corn around 9:45.

About 9:15, the line began to form, those of us clutching our green plastic bags with the anticipation of filling them with that sweet, silver queen goodness. My friend Barbara wanted a few dozen to freeze. I just wanted a plate full of creamed corn, green beans and tomatoes for dinner and I was willing to stand there and wait for it. From her cellphone, our friend at the vegetable stand gave us an update on the progress, “He’ll be here shortly with the corn, he’s just leaving China Grove.”

China Grove. My mind started racing down memory lane that led me back where I grew up. China Grove, a small, Southern town in the Piedmont with a strange, Asian-sounding name. As if you were born with the knowledge or it was hereditary, everyone living there on every street knew everyone for miles around.

An outsider would be treated with the most generous hospitality, but he wouldn’t walk through a neighbor’s yard on a Sunday afternoon, sit on their front porch steps when they weren’t at home and feel that he belonged in this sheltered corner of the world where all the descendants seemed to be of one common ancestor.

History books reveal the town was so named for the large grove of Chinaberry trees that grew throughout the area. The one in our backyard was as tall and mighty as any oak. In the summer, the berries on the tree turned a creamy yellow, softened and dropped to the ground. Walking barefoot, which we mostly did in the summer, could be a disgusting experience. Many churns of ice cream were turned under the shade of that big, old Chinaberry tree.

In the mid 1800s, the name of our town was changed to Lutherville. Mind you, I wasn’t around at that time, but often thought “Why in heaven’s name anyone would call it Lutherville is beyond me.” But people came to their senses, as three years later it was changed back to China Grove.

Our part of town existed because of the cotton mill. My Daddy was a foreman and Mother contributed over 40 years to the company store. A fence surrounded the three- story, brick building — always locked as if some top secret was hidden there.

All I knew about what went on inside was that raw cotton was magically spun into thread. A fairy tale? No. The thread never spun to gold and no one ever became wealthy there, even spinning and winding through the bewitching hours.

Our company-owned, boxed-shaped house bulged with six children — three boys and three girls. Grandma and Grandpa Anthony lived behind us. Aunts, uncles and cousins lived within shouting distance.

Standing in the heat waiting for the corn to come, I remembered the nights when it was too hot to sleep. I’d put my pillow in the opened window at the foot of the bed to wait for a cool breeze to lull me to sleep. And with the soft light of early morning, the silhouettes made friendly the coming of a new day. I loved that time of day, the wake-up call of Grandma’s old red rooster echoing through the morning’s half-light.

Have you ever heard that once you grow up and leave home, “you can never (really) go home again?” Well, I did, and have many, many times in my heart and mind. And thinking about that smooth, creamy white corn, fresh green beans, tomatoes and cucumbers for dinner, takes me back to Mother’s kitchen table where Daddy would chop the hottest green peppers into his corn, eat it while wiping gigantic beads of perspiration from his brow, then cool it down with a tall glass of sweet, iced tea.

Wow! The truck just pulled up full of corn. You would think they were giving away free iced tea and automatic fans as we stormed the truck. Every man (woman) for himself (herself)!

I prepared more than enough corn and green beans for dinner with the anticipation of eating the same the next day. We all know that most leftovers are better the second time around. So now that I’ve had my corn/green bean fix and a nostalgic trip back home to China Grove, I’m going to attempt to limit stove and kitchen time to cooler dishes or at least until my uncontrollable urge for creamed corn and green beans strikes again.

Deirdre Parker Smith had a great article “Keeping Your Cool” in the Food section of the Salisbury Post on June 23.   I would like to add to her list of some salads and some main or side dishes you may want to try during this sizzling hot summer when grilling out.

 Shrimp Salad with Mango Chutney Dressing

Believe me, this is so easy but delicious. This is a hearty salad that I tried to duplicate after eating it at a restaurant in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. This is my version. You’re out of the kitchen in no time.

l head of romaine lettuce, chilled

1 pound medium frozen, cooked shrimp, thawed

1 medium can pineapple chunks, drained, reserving the juice

1 small (11 oz.) can mandarin oranges, drained

1 small (8 oz.) can sliced water chestnuts, drained

Croutons (optional)

Dressing: 1/2 jar (approx. 6 oz.) Mango Chutney (can purchase at Harris Teeter or Food Lion. I used Major Grey Mango Chutney with Ginger from Food Lion.

Reserved juice from pineapple

Salad: Tear romaine leaves into bite-size pieces and place in a large bowl. Combine with shrimp, pineapple, oranges and chestnuts. Chill until ready to serve.

Dressing: Combine the chutney with pineapple juice, adding enough juice, a little at a time, to make the chutney thinner and more like a dressing. Make sure you do the taste test before adding to your salad.

Cucumber Salad

These are cold and crunchy and will last in the refrigerator a long time. They can be served as a side dish with hamburgers, hot dogs and baked beans or as a cool, brunch salad. I’ve made these many times, even during the Christmas holidays.

3 hothouse (long, thin) cucumbers, unpeeled (wash thoroughly)

1 1/4 teaspoons salt

1 large green pepper, seeded and sliced

1 yellow onion, sliced thin

1 cup white vinegar

1 1/4 cups sugar

2 teaspoons celery seed

Feta cheese (if serving as a salad)

Slice the cucumbers into quarter-inch slices. Mix the slices with salt in a colander in the sink. Let stand 2 hours. Drain the cucumbers well and place in a large bowl or large jar with a lid. Layer some of the cucumbers, then green peppers and then onions. Repeat the layers until all is used.

Combine the vinegar, sugar and celery seed in a small bowl, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Pour over the vegetables. Refrigerate, covered, for at least 24 hours before serving. Serve as a side dish or served on a lettuce leaf sprinkled with feta cheese.

These will save in the refrigerator for up to 4 months. Makes about 9 cups.

Marinated Vegetable Salad

Jack Page brought this to our Rose Society picnic. It’s his sister’s recipe. Loved it. Great with the fried chicken.

1 15 oz. can French cut green beans

1 15 oz. can English peas

1 15 oz. can white corn

1 medium red onion diced

1 cup chopped celery

1 medium jar chopped pimiento

1 cup bell pepper, chopped

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 cup vinegar

1/3 cup vegetable oil

Drain green beans, English peas and corn and combine with other vegetables.

In a separate bowl, combine sugar, vinegar and oil, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Pour over the vegetables, toss together and refrigerate overnight. Makes about 8 servings.

Ramen Noodle Salad

A good friend from church, Elda Buxton, brought this dish to every gathering. It’s delicious. I could eat it all by itself, but it’s great with any grilled meat.

2 packages ramen noodles, crushed

1 cup sunflower seeds

1 cup chopped or slivered almonds

2 bunches green onions, chopped

1 16 oz. package slaw mix (purchased at the grocery store)

Dressing:

1/3 cup sugar

2 packages seasoning mix from noodle packages

1/3 cup vinegar

1/3 cup oil

Combine noodles, sunflower seeds, almonds, green onions and slaw mix. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, combine sugar, seasoning mix, vinegar and oil. Toss dressing with salad mix and chill.

Black-Eyed Pea, Corn and Cilantro Salad

Cilantro can be eliminated from this salad if you don’t like cilantro but it certainly adds a great deal of flavor. It’s one of my favorite dishes for a picnic. Serve it with corn chips and cool sour cream.

2 15 oz. cans black-eyed peas, drained

1 15 oz. can white shoepeg corn, drained, or you can use 1 l/2 cups fresh corn off the cob

1 cup chopped, fresh red tomatoes

1/2 cup chopped onion

1/2 cup chopped celery

3/4 cup chopped cilantro

1/3 cup apple cider vinegar

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 or 3 dashes of Texas Pete (optional)

Combine peas, corn, onions, tomatoes, celery and cilantro in a bowl and mix lightly. Mix vinegar, oil, sugar, salt and Texas Pete, stirring until sugar dissolves. Pour over the vegetable mixture and mix well. Refrigerate for several hours for flavors to blend or overnight. Stir before serving.

Mandarin Orange Salad

My good friend, Libby Buck, served this quick, cool and refreshing salad on several occasions when the girls got together at her house for lunch. I think of her every time I eat it.

1 16 oz. container Cool Whip

1 16 oz. container cottage cheese

1 20 oz. can crushed pineapple, drained

1 8 oz. can Mandarin oranges, drained and chopped

2 boxes orange gelatin

In a large bowl, mix dry gelatin into Cool Whip. Fold in cottage cheese. Add the well-drained fruit and mix with Cool Whip mixture. Pour into a 13 by 9 dish. Refrigerate. Best if refrigerated overnight.

Thanks, Libby. I miss you.

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