Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create an account.

Sign in to follow this  
Carrot Top

A Little Bit of Country

Recommended Posts

Sitting before me is a Pink German tomato I have to hold in two hands to pick up. The aroma coming from it smells just like walking between waist high tomato plants in a well tended garden, the leaves being brushed from walking through.

There's also a pile of pole beans looking like tormented souls, twisted and sharp. They're so fresh they squeak.

On the way home I ate my hoop cheese.

I just came across a country store, closer to my home than I ever imagined. The next-closest authentic country store is where I used to live, more than an hour's drive away tucked in an area nobody visits unless they live there. But this country store was set down smackdab in a semi-industrial area about twenty minutes from where I now live, a survivor from other times, holding on with battered roof and buckets of beans to its pride.

The country stores I know carry the best homegrown produce. Better, I daresay, than the Farmer's Markets around here. There's silver queen corn and yaller corn to be had. Tomatoes of four or more luxurious homely sorts. Dried beans in baskets. Double-yolked eggs. Country butter (this means you can taste the hay. It's not to everyone's liking). And hoop cheese, always hoop cheese.

Today I scored some Scuppernong grapes, too, each one the size of a tiny plum, golden and ready to burst.

Are there any country stores near where you live? Are they authentic or dolled-up? What do they sell?

I love them. But they gotta be real. All country, no rock and roll.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The closest I've been to a country store are the produce stands that dot the roadside up and down I-80 and I-5.

I wouldn't know what hoop cheese is if it reached out and bit me though.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hoop cheese? Why it's a cheese that tastes so good everyone that eats it goes "Hoop! Hoop! Hoop!" because it makes them so happy!

(Really it is like a sort of cheddar :wink: )

I forgot to add. Any country store worth its name has to have at least one barefoot child running around sticking his hands in the beans and stirring them up while at the same time trying to catch your eye to tell you about his latest dog-bite or tree-falling out of and at least one older person telling stories about beans or pawpaws.

Pawpaws the fruit, not pawpaws the grandfather. Though often enough PawPaw gets mixed into the stories somehow.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Hoop cheese? Why it's a cheese that tastes so good everyone that eats it goes "Hoop! Hoop! Hoop!" because it makes them so happy!

(Really it is like a sort of cheddar  :wink: )

I forgot to add. Any country store worth its name has to have at least one barefoot child running around sticking his hands in the beans and stirring them up while at the same time trying to catch your eye to tell you about his latest dog-bite or tree-falling out of and at least one older person telling stories about beans or pawpaws.

Pawpaws the fruit, not pawpaws the grandfather. Though often enough PawPaw gets mixed into the stories somehow.

As a teen I was given hoop cheese and always thought of it as having been formed in a needlework hoop! As for paw paws- I was obscessed with a book called perhaps "Beneath the p\Paw Paw Trees"- I had no idea what a paw paw was - now I need to do some research. As for country stores- unfortunately nothin of that ilk in the wilds of Los Angeles.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The country store I frequent most often doesn't sell produce... It's more of a feed and farm supply place.

But, they do have wonderful fresh eggs... sometimes I even get colorful ones... blue and green and peach colors!

They also have plants... 'maters, peppers, herbs, etc.

And, lots of rabbits/goats/chickens/emus/etc... But, NOT for sale as food! :-)

They also have budgies and parakeets and a few other more exotic birds. Micky and Penny, who own the place, just LOVE animals of all sorts.

Penny sells a few antiques out of the back room.

Hmmm... methinks I need to encourage them to start a produce sideline! That might help them compete with the big Tractor Supply that's going in just down the road.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My favorite country store is in a little town in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas called (go figure) Mountain view. Mellons Country Store, is owned by a charming hillbilly sort of old guy ( I forget his name) that once played and toured with "Granpa Jones" of Hee' Haw fame. The front porch and lawn of the farmhouse store is littered with old memoribilia, painted gourds, gas pumps and rocking chairs around checkerboards. And yes, usually there will be a couple of fellas playing checkers and several more sitting around strumming banjo's and singing bluegrass. You won't find fresh produce or even meat here. But, you can buy jars of home-made jams, chutneys, relishes like green tomato, mayhaw, black strap molasses, and muskadine. There are allways fresh roasted and boiled peanuts waiting, hot and delish. In the old style soda dispencers, there will be birch beer, cream soda and many other favorites from childhood. On the walls are dozens of banjo's, mandoline's and dulcimer's made by the owner himself out of gourds. And if you are real lucky, he will get one down and start playing and singing for you, on the bayou or another bluegrass classic to tap your foot to. On one occasion, he patiently gave me lessons on how to play the spoons, I was amazed that such rhythm could be produced by nothing more than two spoons and one *self proclaimed* old hillbilly's love of music. On all the shelves there are candy's home-made or straight out of yesteryear. Nick-nacks, mountain cook-books, (I have bought a few of these) hand-crafted items of every sort grab your eyes and drag you in another direction. The back room is full of antiques that I lovingly browse for hours. The only thing that could possibly make this better would me a bit of local produce, but I won't complain too loudly, as I love this country store.


Edited by nonblonde007 (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

here in down eastern north carolina, you can't sling a dead cat without hitting a country store.........

gallon jars full of hot pickled eggs, hot pickled smoked sausages, (real stuff, not penrose)

"loosies", cigarettes 1 or 2 at a time

all manor of biscuits in the am

hot dogs all the time, "all the way"

fried chicken the rest of the day

50 different kinds of snuff that old women put up their noses

40oz beers sporting names like "old english"

hoop cheese naturally, (as a point of note here cheese is sliced off the hoop then weighed upon sale), prewrapped in a basket by the cash register is not old school.

all manner of produce in season

baby chickens every spring

chicken feed, fence posts, plumbling and electrical supplies.......

rc, moonpies.......

bulldog sleeping in front of the store........(community dog)......

i guess i'm a freak because the grungier the store, the more compelling i find it.....

i especially like the ones when my wife refuses to get out of the car, or go in......

should have taken pics all these years...........i could've written a book

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
As a teen I was given hoop cheese and always thought of it as having been formed in a needlework hoop!

:biggrin: It is made in a hoop but not a needlework one.

mmm...  methinks I need to encourage them to start a produce sideline!  That might help them compete with the big Tractor Supply that's going in just down the road.

Good idea. :wink:

The only thing that could possibly make this better would me a bit of local produce, but I won't complain too loudly, as I love this country store.

Caring for boxes of fresh produce takes work, and work might take away from the porch settin'. :biggrin:

here in down eastern north carolina, you can't sling a dead cat without hitting a country store.........

There used to be one within eye's sight of my front yard when I lived in Howellsville, NC, where everyone was a Howell.

The bright red, black and white roosters twitched their waddles, nodded and danced in the blaring sun that drove down upon the cages stacked in neat rows. There was nothing at all on the horizon but this small white house. You might really call it a shack. Its hand-lettered sign dangling from the grimy front window announced in broad yawning handpainted letters : “Beer. . . Cigarettes. . . Soda. . . Milk. . .” Nothing on the horizon but cornfields, wide hazy blue skies above, nothing but fine smooth black tar roads quartered together in insistent silence but for the rare bark of a dog in the distance, nothing but heat in the air and whatever was in that store.

What was in that store was a man, always a man. Women did not come to this store, ever. Men came here, once in a blue moon. Sometimes they brought boys, boys that seemed even at tender ages of eight or ten to be younger versions of grown men, all of them quiet, watchful, all of them moving carefully out of their pickups into the store. The men chewed tobacco, the boys chewed gum alongtimes, in rhythm with their fathers.

Their specialty was fighting cocks for sale.

50 different kinds of snuff that old women put up their noses

:biggrin: Now you're reminding me of beer joints in rural West Virginia where you might meet some pretty damn sprightly seventy year old women dressed to the nines in tight black leather drinking beer, snorting snuff and flatfooting like tiny hurricanes.

bulldog sleeping in front of the store........(community dog)......

You sure that wasn't Uncle Hank? :huh:

i guess i'm a freak because the grungier the store, the more compelling i find it.....

i especially like the ones when my wife refuses to get out of the car, or go in......

should have taken pics all these years...........i could've written a book

I wish you would. Do it now, before it all disappears as it has in so many other places. I'd do it myself if I didn't have children to rear. They tell me you can't just put them out to pasture like horses when you want to travel and do things. A pity.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Just out of curiosity, is cock fighting legal in the US?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

i forgot to add fishing tackle and live bait.........

jarred stink bait for catfish........

tackle meaning hooks, bobbers and sinkers.........maybe a few cane poles

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Just out of curiosity, is cock fighting legal in the US?

Probably not.

i forgot to add fishing tackle and live bait.........

jarred stink bait for catfish........

tackle meaning hooks, bobbers and sinkers.........maybe a few cane poles

The really scary country stores always have handwritten "weighing station" signs posted. Sometimes I used to wonder if it was only game they weighed but maybe the odd tourist that happened to end up in the wrong place, too. :smile:

And I forgot to add home-made fried pies tossed haphazardly in a flat cardboard box sitting at the end of the checkout. Which apparently only come in apple, as I've never in my life seen another flavor sold.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Just out of curiosity, is cock fighting legal in the US?

Much to my (and many others) embarrassment, the state of Louisiana only this year banned cockfighting. IIRC, the new ban begins next year. Can't come soon enough.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I just realized that every single real country store I've ever seen is within sighting distance (or else otherwise it's just around the bend) of a church, usually Baptist, that has a big sign in the front warning to pay attention to it "or else".

:biggrin:

I wonder if that's true everywhere or whether it's something that just happens to me. :sad:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Karen what I really noticed is that every Baptist church in TN was around the corner from .....another Baptist church

and since I was never in TN on a Sunday I dont know if Baptist church ladies can cook

No country store by me just generic deli/coffee shops

T

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Ever since this topic was first posted I just knew I had to have a country store story stored somewhere in my memory. :huh:

Today I went out to visit my friend Bob at his cabin about twenty miles north of town. On the way I passed an oft-remodeled country store my friends and I used to frequent when we were in high school. Back then it carried a few groceries, minnows and fishing gear, and also served as the area Post Office, so it basicly featured three basic needs of rural living; beer, bait and stamps. :cool:

The owner was illiterate and innumerate. He could count money, but that was about it. As a result, anybody who could even come close to passing for the legal drinking age of 21 was able to buy 3.2 beer there. Brands like Black Label, Fox Deluxe, and our favorite, White Label (not too bad if it was ice cold) sold for 99 cents a six-pack! :smile:

My friend John "Luke" Lucas was not only very tall for his age, but had a deep voice and could grow a full beard by the time he was fifteen years old. I can still picture Luke coming out of the store carrying eight six-packs stacked on the tips of his fingers and tucked under his chin! :biggrin:

When I went by the store today I noticed a sign advertising the availability of cappuccino! :blink:

SB (how times change! :laugh: )

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Beer, bait and cigarettes. Gas and stamps. Considered this way, any produce is mere frippery. :raz:

Cheap loaves of white bread in bright colored wrappers and milk for which prayer is required to have it stay fresh more than three hours after its purchase.

The illiterate finding a way to make a living, without the peering eye of disdain.

A few sorts of "penny candy" in large dusty plastic jars. I think the price for "penny candy" now lingers between fifteen and twenty cents. :rolleyes:

I expected your area to have country stores, SB, because to me it is the land of Paul Bunyan. Tall tales abound, and where tall tales hail from (just as they do in the South, but the flavor is different, not Bunyan-esque) one must have country stores as counter-point. There's simply no other way. The places hold onto the odd corners of romance and small human stories that have absolutely nothing to do with Accomplishment with a capital A or the posing that accompanies it. That music will be gone. All that will be left is the Seven-Eleven and the Mall, Fresh Market and everyone striving to be Paris Hilton or her male counterpart. Whoever that is. We'll be a land that mirrors TV rather than TV (or I think it used to be literature?) mirroring us. We will eat what the TV tells us is most delightful and will not be able to discern or comprehend any sort of life that is not media-created.

Jolly today, aren't I. :laugh:


Edited by Carrot Top (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You all have forgotten THE most important item stocked in country stores--ammo.

Nothing like a place where you can buy beer, cigs and shells.

Our country store is Buzz's, which is really Elaine's, because Buzz died several years ago.

Not much food there--except for those terrific roasted peanuts that should be showing up any time. By Christmas, they are all gone, but Elaine says it takes her from January til September to lose the weight she gains while they are in stock.

Apart from the peanuts, you can find pet foods of all varieties, nails, junction boxes, bird feeders, seed, plumbing fittings, and invaluable advice from Elaine--"don't forget to wrap the teflon tape around that before you put it together".

She also knows how to do the gerryrigging those of us who live in old, old houses have to do regularly. "Ah, I get it--one of those fittings goes into that thingie, and then into the parts I have."

Bless you, Elaine, and long may you prosper.


Edited by sparrowgrass (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
All that will be left is the Seven-Eleven and the Mall, Fresh Market and everyone striving to be Paris Hilton or her male counterpart. Whoever that is.

Then again, perhaps future "old-timers" will amuse themselves sending mind-to-mind-mails about the corner the old 7-11 once stood on where they had their first Slurpee? :rolleyes:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Then again, perhaps future "old-timers" will amuse themselves sending mind-to-mind-mails about the corner the old 7-11 once stood on where they had their first Slurpee? :rolleyes:

Oh yes. There's that. Civilization and culture reduced to a Slurpee.

:laugh:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Sign in to follow this  

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×