To cap off our country weekend*, my Dad took me and Jean to the farmer’s market in Quakertown, PA, a few towns over from where my parents live. (*Anita’s weekend= Wed-Fri.)
Quakertown is one of those Pennsylvania towns where Victorian style houses with wraparound porches line both sides of Main Street. Where every other storefront is an antique shop. Where a railroad crossing sign marks the main intersection. On the left, there’s a perfectly preserved, turn of the century train station, where a white haired man and woman, silhouetted against the sun, are huddled in conversation- although it looks like a train hasn’t passed through here in decades.
Basically, it’s the idyllic little toy land from the intro to Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. And it has always given me the creeps.
We made a left at the station, drove almost to the edge of town and saw the big red glowing sign for the market on the left. We turned in and saw a long, low metal building that stretched on for what seemed like a mile. Like the Los Angeles farmer’s market, it was just a matter of finding a parking spot and then picking one of the numbered entrances. Inside the market, I noticed another similarity: the year-round carnival vibe. There were funnel cake and cotton candy stands, a popcorn and pickle stand, and an arcade. But the structure also housed a slight gloom that may have come from the fluorescent lighting, or the fact that it was eleven in the morning on a weekday.
There were Canal Street type places that sold cheap electronic accessories, kung-fu weaponry, and pashmina scarves. Then there were the oddball hangouts like the model car shop and racetrack, karaoke recording studio/alligator petting zoo, and rare coin dealer. There were butchers, bakers, and a Yankee candle shop. And of course some produce stands that were similar to the Korean place where I get $1.50 packs of totally out-of-season strawberries and 25 cent sleeves of Chinese garlic. The antithesis of the Greenmarket.
Mainly, we were here to try “Latin Flavor,” a Puerto Rican lunch stand my Dad had seen on a previous visit with my Mom. It was a typical arroz con grandules type of place that you could find on any block in East Williamsburg, Brooklyn…in Quakertown! The one standout was a chicken empanada that Dad and I shared. It had a flaky, lightly salty crust with a core of tender, flavorful dark meat chicken in a red, achiote-tinged sauce. It had that soulfulness of slow cooked on the bone meat and was perfectly complimented by the vinegary, house-made hot sauce.
Next time we’ll have to try the Senegalese curry house, or the Japanese diner that features sushi, or a pancake breakfast.
The quintessential moment of the day was when my Dad pointed out a confederate flag and motorcycle motif tiffany lamp, and right across the walkway – ready for picture ops – was a cardboard cutout of President Obama. The train may have stopped running, but changes are coming to upper Bucks County, PA!