One of the best perks of doing fieldwork for the North Carolina Folklife Institute is the amazing food you run into on the road. When I arrived in Brunswick County last night for a community meeting related to a folklife survey we’re doing, supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, fieldworker Steve Kruger showed up with a trunk full of goodies – collards, cabbage collards, and a huge sack of oysters he’d picked up from Carson Varnam’s Shellfish Market on Varnamtown Road in the Varnamtown community.
Fortunately, photographer and project manager Chris Fowler had stopped to pick up two oyster knives as well (add that to your folklorist’s necessity bag if you’re working near the coast)! After the meeting, Steve broke out a couple of oysters, Chris broke out the knives, and a moment of salty heaven was had right there in the parking lot of Brunswick Community College. Steve shot his so quick he was just a blur, but we savored the moment, and counted ourselves lucky he bought his bag right before the deluge of rain, which will make the next few days’ oysters less wonderfully salty as these.
Carson Varnam’s Shellfish Market was started by Carson Varnam in the early ’70’s and was run out of his home on the Lockwood Folly River. Selling local clams and oysters, mostly coming from the local water of Brunswick County, he was known for what he did best; “selling local clams and oysters.” The tradition is continued by his widow, Marlene, and grandson Mikey.
You can find them at 175 Varnamtown Road, Supply, NC 28462, Phone: (910) 842-6425, Fax: (910) 842-6568. They even have a Facebook page – but if you want oysters, hurry. There are only two weeks left in the season. After that, you’ll have to move on to clams…
And if you’re not sure what to do with a $35 bag of oysters, here’s a recipe for Carson’s Oyster Folly Fritters from Marlene to help you out, courtesy of Brunswick Catch (who also has a lovely tribute to Carson for his contribution to local foodways and community.
As for me, I went home with the biggest head of cabbage collards – so a little more Brunswick County heaven will be waiting for me when I get home tonight!
Carson Varnam’s Shellfish Market
175 Varnamtown Road
Supply, NC 28462-
Phone: (910) 842-6425
Fax: (910) 842-6568
Map this address at MapQuest.com