When we moved back to Pennsylvania a few years back, I came upon a local farmer’s market quite by accident. We had leased a 200 yr old home on the Schuylkill River in time to get the kids enrolled in the local schools, not certain if we would be staying long enough for a home purchase.
From our home in the south, we had spotted the ad in the local newspaper. My husband, who was already working here, was a bit reluctant at first; the home seemed very remote and was about 20 miles from his new office. But my 2 young children and I were persistent; this was the one we wanted to pursue.
On a visit to check it out, we fell in love with everything about it. It was way bigger than we needed; had huge windows, deep window-wells and high ceilings; all of which we knew were poorly insulated. There were 5 fireplaces; one in each of the 3 original bedrooms, one in the formal living room, and my favorite- one in the kitchen. There was a servants quarter’s living area that had been added sometime more recently, maybe the late 1800’s , which featured 2 stories, more modern appointments, and a spiral staircase off the back of the kitchen.
We were charmed; my husband was cautious, but we took the lease.
It had over 5000 square feet, but the rent was reasonable and we only planned to stay a year. It turned out to be the winter of the blizzard in that area; record snowfall, roads closed off for days, power lines snapped leaving us in the dark and cold. The 300 gallon oil tank that was buried underground had no meter; it ran out several times, leaving us with only fireplace heat until the roads cleared and the tanker truck could get to us. The winter was an adventure, to say the least, especially for a family that had spent 4 years in sunny South Carolina.
From first glance, the property did seem like it was in the middle of nowhere. There was limited access along the wooded, riverside road. And then, we ventured uphill.
The exterior was a bit run-down; single story with bad roofing, limited windows to expose the inside, lots of generators were humming, dumpsters had not yet been emptied from the weekend before. I was delighted to see the several small smokehouses in the back of the building. This was a sign from the family farm of my ancestors; there would be bacon.
When I finally got to explore, I knew that it was exactly where we were supposed to be. My family had been shopping at similar markets for as long as I could remember. Vendors had small, cramped booths with rustic wooden tables, poorly-lit shelves that featured some hand-made signs.
There was an assortment of fresh meat and produce that made up the majority of the area; but there were also deli foods, tea and coffee vendors, working bakeries, fresh seafood steamed or fried on the premises, and the smokehouse products- bacon and sausages.
A few years after we arrived, they converted an old bingo hall that was attached to the market into a section of ethnic food vendors, where you could dine on everything from Greek gyros to Vietnamese noodles; Cajun cuisine to home made Italian dishes; Polish stuffed cabbages and pastries to German pork and kraut; Amish-made traditional foods to organic “green cafe”entrees. Oh, my !!
This was all less than 2 miles from our “remote” location on the river. I was in heaven; and this became my go-to food source.
My immigrant ancestors were long gone, but their foods and traditions lived on in that beat-up collection of buildings, that I stumbled onto only after we had signed the lease.
You almost always end up where you are supposed to be. Home.