Friday, July 1, dawned cool and fair, which was just wonderful for the “Spark Plugs” of Maben as they were anxious with setting up the vendors in their assigned spots and for all of the farmers who just drove up in their trucks and opened the tailgate and they were ready for business. There is nothing like living in the South.
As for myself, the first farmers’ market was like an outdoor party: lots of people to talk too, shade to stand in, Mediterranean and Southern cuisine to taste and to “oooh” and “aaah” over, and did I say, lots of friends and neighbors to chat with as we all looked over the fruits and vegetables offered for sale.
After the greeting by District 3 Supervisor Marvel Howard, the Star-Spangled Banner was played as special quests Mathiston Mayor “Chew” Carden and Mantee Mayor Frances Baker wished the Maben people good luck with this new venture. Afterwards, Spark Plugs Pat Harpole and Lavenia Yeatman unrolled the red ribbon for the ribbon cutting opening the market for business. Part of the committee gathered for this traditional opening ceremony.
As I roamed around the market, I ran into former student Christi Davidson Keeton of Christi’s Creations, who had the most adorable small children’s clothing for sale. It was good that I didn’t have lots of cute little girls, or I would have spent all of my money in one spot.
I had a wonderful time visiting with Christi Wilson of Pheba, who makes goat milk soap. Judging from her complexion, she has a wonderful product as she says that is all she uses on her face. She says she has four goats that she milks nine months out of the year. After chatting for a while, we arranged for a visit from me out to their farm so I could observe the operation first hand. This should bring back my days spent down on the dairy farm in West Lowndes County.
As I turned around there was a vendor (D&G Farm) from Wren, which was selling an assortment of vegetables and canned jellies, jams, preserves, and chow-chow, etc. One vegetable that I especially was attracted to was the Patty Pan squash, which after talking with the vendor I came away with a recipe to share: boil the squash for 3 to 4 minutes, cool, cut the center out, fill with sausage, cheese, onions, sour cream, rice, etc., and then bake at 350 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes. It sounds yummy to me.
I continued to roam and do what I do best-talk to the vendors, I came upon the two lovely people who were giving away samples of hummus and baklava. If you liked the taste, then they had items for sale. I was told that these were samples of Mediterranean cuisine; whatever it was, it tasted good.
• 1 pound chopped mixed nuts
• 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 1 (16 ounce) package phyllo dough
• 1 cup butter, melted
• 1 cup white sugar
• 1 cup water
• 1/2 cup honey
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Butter a 9x13 inch baking dish.
2. Toss together cinnamon and nuts. Unroll phyllo and cut whole stack in half to fit the dish. Cover phyllo with a damp cloth while assembling the baklava, to keep it from drying out.
3. Place two sheets of phyllo in the bottom of the prepared dish. Brush generously with butter. Sprinkle 2 to 3 tablespoons of the nut mixture on top. Repeat layers until all ingredients are used, ending with about 6 sheets of phyllo. Using a sharp knife, cut baklava (all the way through to the bottom of the dish) into four long rows, then (nine times) diagonally to make 36 diamond shapes.
4. Bake in preheated oven 50 minutes, until golden and crisp.
5. While baklava is baking, combine sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil. Stir in honey, vanilla and lemon zest, reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes.
6. Remove the baklava from the oven and immediately spoon the syrup over it. Let cool completely before serving. Store uncovered.
Throughout the morning, singers Kenneth McKee, Jr., Marion Johnson, Christie Vessey, and an Elvis impersonator entertained those that perused the vendors for fruits, vegetables, goat milk soap, bird houses, baked goods, iron works for the garden, knitted baby clothes, monogrammed clothing, and those who were just visiting.
If you have never seen a truck load of bird houses, you needed to have seen the truck load make by the AbilityWorks, Inc. group. After talking with Chuck Bailey, the facility manager, I received an assortment of pamphlets that told me much about the program. AbilityWorks, Inc. is a part of the Mississippi Department of Rehabilitation Services and is a non-profit corporation. This group made bird houses, bird feeders, tool trays, and tomato stakes, which were for sale at a nominal fee.
You never know who you will run into at one of these markets and low and behold there was William Buckner, a Maben native, a former construction worker, a Southern rock band member, and now a farmer and a cook. After getting over the shock of learning the William could cook and could make jams and jellies, I was impressed. True to form, it wasn’t long before William was over at the entertainment center trying out the microphone for everyone’s enjoyment. I received another invitation to come and interview William in his kitchen where he creates Wild Willie’s Produce.
Those members of the Maben Chamber of Commerce that make up the Farmers’ Market Committee are to be congratulated for getting the first Farmers’ Market off to a good start.