Church bells chime from steeples above Marion Square, an ocean breeze brushes the tents filled with gluten-free goodies and gourmet ground beef, as people shuffle slowly through the Saturday morning Farmers Market.
While it is neither old nor unique, this warm-weather ritual is friendly and fashionable, a place to see and be seen considering the advantages of pasture-raised chicken and wine-scented candles.
Nearby, young boys draw tourists who marvel as they make Palmetto roses from palm fronds, as the smell of coffee and crepes wafts over the crowd and slowly dissipates into the bright blue sky.
Italian ice cream or summer squash soup, you ask yourself, as you bob and weave with the flow of people in pursuit of unordinary pleasures.
Maybe you’ll have butter beans tonight and black-eyed peas tomorrow. The choices are tempting and so fresh, perhaps you’ll have both, with a little chutney on the side.
Eggplant and peppers
Time was, a farmers’ market meant backing a pickup into a field, dropping the tailgate, and selling that week’s corn and tomato crop until the truck bed was scattered with husks and splattered with seeds.
That simple philosophy has been upgraded, of course, to fill the needs of city folks and visitors who arrive with empty baskets and higher expectations.
Today the market is one part cornucopia, one part carnival and two parts coffee shop complete with muffalettas, benne wafers and kettle corn.
And if homemade hummingbird feeders or rustic swamp art aren’t your cup of tea, there are coffee roasters, scented soaps and stained glass art to make you feel more at home, right here at home.
Under one green tent are sweet potatoes and pole beans, cucumbers and cabbage, eggplant and peppers, right next to the kosher pickles, which are across from the pretzels, and very near the sausage with a sign that suggests it came from happy animals.
The animals, of course, had no comment.
Olive oil and herbs
For several hours each Saturday, this patch of grass beneath John C. Calhoun’s nose is a parade of pretty people in search of serenity.
There are babies being strolled, and dogs, big and small, some coiffed, some muzzled, all floating along in an endless stream of straw hats, sandals and sunscreen.
Anywhere else, this many people would be boisterous and unbecoming. But here, in the Holy City, in the shadow of the old Citadel, within spitting distance of historic homes, it is an organic goat cheese crowd with fresh-made pasta personalities.
And while you can purchase boiled peanuts, it somehow gets lost amid the cilantro, arugula, olive oil and herbs.
Throw in some custom-made jewelry, landscape art, pet puppies and a jump castle and you’ve spent your morning moseying among some of the best people you know, or want to know, or may never know, in a marketplace with something sure to satisfy all three.