03/14/04 — Curb Market attracts crowd with tasty food

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Curb Market attracts crowd with tasty food

By Barbara Arntsen
Published in News on March 14, 2004 2:07 AM

Open the door to the Wayne Center on any Friday afternoon and you'll be greeted by a plethora of fine foods, designed to tempt even the most stalwart dieter.

If you're not hungry before you go to Goldsboro's Curb Market, you will be when you get there.

The market, described by one participant as "Goldsboro's best kept secret," is getting ready to celebrate its 81 anniversary at the end of this month.

Five long tables form a large circle in the room, each table loaded with a wide variety of scrumptious goodies.

The market offers an array of homemade food, from old-fashioned chicken and dumplings, Southern fried chicken, black-eyed peas and lima beans to lasagna, casseroles, breads, cakes and pies.

"I try to come every Friday and get enough food to last until the next week," said District Court Judge Rose Williams.

Ms. Williams is buying a little extra food on this particular Friday because she's been feeding her sister-in-law, who is recovering from surgery.

She's been a patron of the Curb Market for two years and her favorite foods are Judy Hunt's "chicken delight" and her broccoli cheese casserole.

"I'm going to order some food to take to my mother's for Easter dinner," Ms. Williams said. "So the market is even cooking for people in Raleigh."

The market dates back to 1923 when a representative from the Home Demonstration Club Council met with the mayor, city manager and about 50 rural folk to map out plans for a market that would offer fresh farm produce.

On March 31, 1923, the first market was opened in an open-air setting in back of the old Arlington Hotel on Center Street. Seven community booths were operated and sales on the first day amounted to over $100.

The market began during a time when rural and urban lives were separate, and the Woman's Market allowed the country and city to meet in a friendly atmosphere.

For the farm family, it was a profitable way to dispose of excess produce, and get extra income. For the market patrons, it was an unmatched source of obtaining the freshest, best seasoned and choicest of foods.

Seventy-six year old LaMuriel Sutton has been cooking for the Curb Market for almost 24 years. She says that its not really a money-making venture for her because of the cost of groceries, but she does it "because I want something to do."

Ms. Sutton's specialties include chicken salad, spaghetti, black-eyed peas, pinto beans and potato salad. Also famous are her pecan and coconut pies, pound cakes and carrot cakes.

Though Ms. Sutton tries to accommodate her customers by baking what they like, she does have her limits.

"If somebody asks me to make something I don't really like, I just pretend that I don't know how to make it," she said. "They really don't want me to make things that I don't like because I'd mess it up."

She adds that she enjoys cooking.

"I might not do it as good as some, but I'll try," she said. "You know how you know if it's good? If people keep buying it. If they only buy it once, then you know it's no good."

In the beginning, the ladies offered fresh greens, beets, turnips, field peas and beans as well as raw chicken and butchered pork. Fresh eggs and milk and home-churned butter completed the cornucopia of fresh staples.

Later, the market moved to the Wayne County Memorial Community Building on Walnut Street. With the advent of strict U.S. Department of Agriculture rules regarding the sale of raw meat, eggs and dairy products, Curb Market offerings began to change.

Today, the Friday Curb Market at the Wayne Center on the corner of George and Spruce streets offers a showcase for some of the county's finest cooks.

When the Farmers' Market on Center Street opened, the ladies stopped selling fresh produce altogether, choosing not to compete with the larger farms. Instead, they exchanged the home-grown business for the home-made, and the Curb Market took on its current form.

Judy Hunt, coordinator for the market, says that though there are fewer women participating than in bygone years, people can still find good old-fashioned Southern cooking at the market.

"We get a variety of people coming in," Ms. Hunt said. "We have older people who can no longer cook, or career people who come and buy their lunches for the following week. Once you come, you're hooked."

The market is open from 4:30 to 6 p.m. every Friday, with the biggest rush occurring between 4:30 and 5 p.m.

On March 26, the market will celebrate its 81st anniversary with the usual goodies, plus free lemonade and cookies.

"If you've never visited before, come then and see for yourself why it's the best kept secret in Wayne County," Ms. Hunt said.

For more information about the Curb Market, call 734-0970.