by David Cecelski
This week, my family and I are taking classes at the John C.Campbell Folk School on the border of Cherokee and Clay County. I’m spending most of my time in the blacksmith shop with my son and daughter, but I’m also keeping an eye out for interesting, traditional foods from this part of the Southern Appalachians.
Our first adventure was the Tuesday Flea Market in Murphy, 5 or 6 miles from here. A local woman told us that it wasn’t to be missed, so my daughter and I drove into Murphy, the seat ofCherokee County, early this morning in search of a flea market breakfast before we began our day at the folk school.
We started seeing cars parked alongside the road soon after we crossed the Hiawasee River. We parked in a grassy field next to the BB&T and followed the crowds walking down into a little dell that looked as if it was once a lumberyard. Hundreds of vendors were down there.
They’re there, we were told, every Tuesday from 6:00 AM to 1 PM. Some of the vendors sold their wares out of cars and trucks, some under tents, and some out of old barns and sheds. Most had things—old farm equipment, antique house wares, vintage rifles, and odds and ends ranging from Japanese lacquered vanity sets to glow-in-the-dark crystal balls.
Other vendors offered a taste of local mountain foods. Jen Stockbridge, a beekeeper, was the very first vendor we saw. She was selling honey out of the trunk of her car right behind the BB&T. She and her husband, Zack, keep bees up in Andrews, she told us. She offered us a sample of their honey and we bought a quart after we had a taste, it was so sweet, pure and flavorful.
As we walked through flea market, we found several good-sized produce stands, too. One of them, a peach farmer and his kids, had driven up from South Carolina.
Other vendors had so little produce that I guessed it came out of home gardens no bigger than mine. One woman had only a bushel basket of tomatoes, a ½ bushel of okra, and a dozen or so yellow squash, but what she had looked fresh out of her garden.
Several ladies were selling baked goods, too. We bought a tray of cinnamon raisin sticky buns for our breakfast from one of them. She said that she used her mother’s recipe, including the maraschino cherry on the top.
Other vendors were selling jars of pickled corn, string beans, beets, and okra, as well as home-canned sauerkraut, bread-and-butter pickles, and chowchow. At one booth, an older lady was selling pickles and honey, while her husband played the guitar and sang beautiful old gospel songs. It was a wonderful way to start the day: a little music, a good breakfast, interesting people, and all those old, old things.