When I was but a wee lad, we made the terribly long trek to West Point on a fairly regular basis. Unfortunately for me, most of these visits were to see our pediatrician, Dr. Joe – visits that often resulted in a shot. As a grown-up that point of the Golden Triangle does not seem nearly so far away, and West Point draws me for more pleasant reasons. Now I go to eat.
Case in point: a couple of weeks ago, I took a window of opportunity. There were just two hours between the final bell at Daughter’s school and the appointed hour to meet my folks for a birthday dinner at Cappe’s. I had two goals. According to a reader’s tip, Nightingale’s Pantry had the okra chips I wrote about a few weeks back; I wanted to go see what other fun foods they might have. Also, I knew my day job would conflict with my attendance at our own community market the following Saturday. To get my fix, I wanted to explore West Point’s Thursday afternoon market at Mossy Oak.
Daughter usually rolls her eyes when Daddy wants to take a food-related road trip, but this time she had a personal motive: she wanted to visit the Hummus Lady. The adults in our family like the Baba Ghanouj dip, an eggplant-based cousin to hummus. Daughter likes the fresh, homemade pita bread. Daddy was feeling a bit guilty. A couple of Saturdays earlier, he had neglected to wake Daughter up early so she could buy the pita herself at our own Community Market. Confession: Daddy actually had three goals for this trip. After a quick homework level evaluation, Daughter agreed that we could make it to West Point and back before dinner.
About halfway to Nightingale’s Pantry, the cold air in the car went kaput, and of course the day was a scorcher. But wait. A snow-cone truck was parked in the lot. Icy, sweet relief. A year ago, on a pre-expansion stop at the Pantry, I found roll butter (not butter for rolls – butter in a roll), cheese curds and pink Himalayan salt. This time I came away with veggie chips of all sorts, mini peanut butter morsels, and yet another unique sea salt. They have also added a little restaurant on the side, but we had to save that for another day – didn’t want to ruin my appetite for Cappe’s. I chose to consider my peach-mango snow cone as an appetizer.
As we drove back into town, the car’s A/C miraculously kicked back in. We were most thankful. Being four o’clock on a fine August day, we were also thankful that the market was completely roofed and shady. I have lately been enjoying a snack of diced cucumbers and peaches topped with Joanne’s poppy-seed salad dressing; Lancaster Farms helped us stock up on cucumbers and some squash to boot. Like the watermelon milkshake from last week, this may seem an odd combination to some, but I say try it now while cukes and peaches are in season, if you dare.
Across the way was a table topped with several varieties of watermelon. I had been in search of a yellow-meated melon for a friend in Oxford, and this fellow had two left. I asked him how he could tell they were yellow inside, and he pointed to the stripes. I smiled and nodded, as if I had any idea what he was talking about, and hoped for the best. It did turn out to be yellow when we cracked it open in Oxford the next day, and it was delicious.
The most unique veggie for sale in West Point that day was a bizarre-looking creation the farmer called running okra. The pods were eight to ten inches long, about one-and-a-half inches at the widest point, a bit curly at the skinny end, and covered with spiny ridges running the length of the pod. He told me it could be cooked just like regular okra, just less slimy on the inside. I never got around to frying or grilling any of it, but I did stir fry slices with a handful of bagged broccoli slaw, a bit of oil and some sweet soy sauce from the Asian Market. An odd pod to be sure, but it was fun to see something different on the plate.
And yes, the Hummus Lady was there. Daddy got his Baba Ghanouj and Daughter got her pita bread, which she promptly devoured in the back seat of the car, effectively ruining her dinner. But she was happy, and Daddy was in the clear. Worth the trip.
Jay Reed is a local foodie and pharmacist. The culinary tastes expressed here are his and do not necessarily reflect the appetites of the Starkville Daily News or individual members of its staff. He welcomes your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.