On a crisp October morning, we pulled into the Rocky Mount Farmer’s Market. The goal: fresh apples. Status: hungry. The Market was situated in a permanent shelter on Peachtree Street, about 5 minutes from Rocky Mount’s historic downtown. I was hoping for nothing more than a fresh North Carolina apple. Much to my dismay, we were not in apple region. We were in seafood region. Outside the shelter was a man selling fresh shrimp and crawfish out of the back of his truck. Inside the farmer’s market were a variety of vendors. Sweet potatoes, fresh flowers, baked goods, grits, handwoven baskets, personalized aprons. There was even an antique car. I quickly scoured the vendors, accepting the fact that I was misguided in my apple desire.
The vendor that caught my eye was S & S Boiled Peanuts. I’d never had a boiled peanut, but that was all about to change. I struck up a conversation with the man and his wife who were selling the peanuts and revealed the fact that I’d never had a boiled peanut. Well, this just didn’t stand with him. He got up and offered a boiled peanut to me and my two friends who were along for the journey. He cracked the soggy peanuts in half for us. Inside the damp peanut shell were two engorged peanuts that looked nothing like the peanuts I knew and loved. The disdain was apparent on my face because the man reminded me that “they’re legumes, not nuts.” This may be true but I still wasn’t on board. I popped the beans in my mouth and was overwhelmed by the heat and the saltiness. I slowly chewed but had I not been in the presence of the man who prepared the peanuts, I would have spit them out. I couldn’t get past the mushy consistency and saltiness.
I thanked the man for the peanuts, and he commented on the camera I was carrying, asking what I was taking pictures before. I explained the project and he summarized it by responding in his North Carolina drawl, “So you want to know what Southerners do on the weekends? We get drunk.” He gave me some context to this by explaining that today was Koichella, a beer, music, and food truck festival happening at Koi Pond Bar about five minutes from the farmer’s market. He even said that he and his wife would be there later selling more of their boiled peanuts! We thanked him for the invitation but had to decline, not because of the boiled peanuts, but because we had to continue our journey down the highway.
We drifted through the farmer’s market some more. Completely abandoning any desire for an apple, I found Magie’s baked goods and pursued my options. I was overwhelmed by a selection of sweet breads, pies, and pastries, each looking more delicious than the next. I ended up purchasing a sweet potato turnover from. Magie recommended toasting the turnover in a George Foreman grill. We didn’t happen to bring a grill on our journey, but I can tell you that is was just as sweet, soft, and flaky eating it straight from the bag as we continued our journey down Highway 64.