Around this time of year in Little Rock, Arkansas, you're likely to encounter busloads of 5th graders spending their last school days carefully doling out field trip money on bags of Clinton's favorite sugar cookie mix and McClard's BBQ sauce at the Clinton Museum store. And if you're lucky, as we were, bushels of fresh black-eyed peas at the River Market farmers market.
“These aren't just any black-eyed peas but purple peas,” said a Carpenter's Farms vendor at Saturday's market, pointing out their purple eye (your purple politics and Schwarzenegger jokes here). Turn the page for a photo tour of Clinton's hometown market, that Blackberry Hills Farm Kool-Aid “Traffic Jam” and all.
Over the weekend, we found an impressive array of salad greens, tomatoes and spring onions for such a rainy spring day. First-of-season watermelon, cantaloupe and corn, too.
There were more pickled vegetables than we could count (from your standard cucumbers to okra), grass-fed beef and fresh-churned butter (!), freshly baked crusty loaves and chubby cinnamon buns.
As this is the South, several stands were packed with homemade relishes and jams of every “fruit” pedigree, even questionable ones. But hey, that Kool-Aid “Traffic Jam” sounds much better than the presidential traffic jams we've seen in L.A.
We made a nuisance of ourselves behind Carpenter Farms' stand, where a worker was shucking peas by the basket-full in a rudimentary mechanized contraption. As the machine hummed, a flood of shucked peas shot out the other end and into his basket. He scooped them up, sorted out the occasional pod, and poured them into plastic baggies for awaiting customers. Most of whom, it seems, were not from thousands of miles away.
“I'm not gonna lie to you, these peas are delicate and probably won't make it until tomorrow outside the refrigerator,” a Carpenter family member told us as we debated buying a bag for the plane flight home (don't tell the California Department of Food and Agriculture). When we told him we've been known to put BBQ in our checked bags, he looked at us and smiled. “Really? Well, you can probably handle the peas.”
Indeed. Turns out, those peas made it back to California just fine. We boiled them, then tossed them with fresh parsley a few spoonfuls of Stutzman's Pantry sweet pepper relish, which we also picked up at the Little Rock farmer's market, and — of course — plenty of good California olive oil. Up next on our California-Southern foodways alliance: Replicating the lightly battered and deep fried black-eyed peas served in lieu of peanuts as a bar snack at the Capital Bar and Grill just down the street. Wish us luck. Trust us, you want this recipe as much as we do.