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Here's why I love living in a small town in Georgia

The farmer's market this weekend is having a watermelon tasting and seed-spitting contest.

I love that! This town is like Sheriff Andy Taylor's home - it keeps its innocence and its joy of life without guile and without fear of looking unsophisticated.

I've lived in fairly close-in suburbs all my life (LA, Columbus OH, Chicago), not quite in the city, but not quite separate either, from the culture of the city. Now, we are 40 miles west of Atlanta, far enough to be self sufficient, but not so far that we can't see a great show at the Fox or pop into town for some fine dining or good shopping.

Tomorrow morning, we can be happily spitting watermelon seeds for fun and prizes. Don't you wish you lived here, too?

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  1. No, I find summer in the south way too hot for me.
    But this time of year here in New England the local Volunteer Fire Companies are holding Lobster Fests, and next weekend is Oyster Festival. I live in a 33,000 (population) small town that adjoins the largest City in the state and is 1 hour from Manhattan. Best of both worlds.

    9 Replies
    1. re: bagelman01

      Your lobster/oyster fests sure beat the hell out of watermelon seed spittin'.

      1. re: mucho gordo

        Years ago (1970-75) I worked at a summer sleep-a-way camp about 1/2 an hour east of New Haven. Watermelon Seed spitting was a common occurence and even an event in the camp color wars.
        Unfortunately, it wouldn't happen here in this day and age. One is very hard pressed to find anything but a SEEDLESS watermelon in the stores or produce stands.

      2. re: bagelman01

        Oh, I do concede on the heat! And finding ANY kind of seafood is out of the question. (And I miss the snow terribly)
        But, all in all, it's a fine way to live.

        1. re: bagelman01

          bagelman, as your (sort-of) neighbor, I concur--though it does strike me how often it has been cooler MANY PLACES in the south than it has been here in Connecticut for the past month. :)

          jmcarthur8, I'm maybe a half an hour plus north of bagelman. Though I can completely appreciate and understand your love for your small town, I'm just as smitten to live in the little city where I was born.

          Not only do I love my hometown for its little Italian markets and more Sicilians than our sister city (Melilli, Sicily), but give me 20 minutes and I can reach heaven on earth:
          http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/28/nyr...
          I can pick what's in season or just pick up! In season, that includes killer cherry donuts!

          My buddy at my favorite farm stand lets me know when the REALLY GOOD corn is there and we exchange cooking tips....and when he recently saw me before and after (when I was way overheated from a walk in excessive heat), he asked if I was OK, took me aside and offered me a nice, cold cup of Gatorade.

          I'm pretty much smack dab between Boston and NY, and though I don't go too often these days, it's but a simple car trip should the need arise.

          Otherwise, we, too enjoy a variety of farmers' markets and farm stands. Just 30 minutes gets me to the shore where I can bike or skate or walk, then feast on a scallop roll...or even a simple, sensational sandwich (Saybrook Soup & Sandwich Co.).
          http://www.yummmey.com/

          There is no shortage of great food in my hometown, and even more options PLUS the Connecticut Wine Trail if you like to take a ride...which I always do!

          I live on the edge of a small city with nothing in my backyard but trees and occasional deer, turkeys and the cats next door. I can bump into old friends and neighbors any given day at a store or in the supermarket.

          So, are you sure you wouldn't like to live here, too? :) Greetings from Middletown, Connecticut 06457!

          1. re: kattyeyes

            kattyeyes, I bet you I would love to live there, too! It sounds like my kind of place. Hubby is from the Hudson Valley (Orange County), and we always notice that the area looks so much like Georgia, we feel like we're home when we go up to visit family.
            Being from the Midwest, I'm sure the culture where you live is much closer to what I'm used to than the lifestyle in the Bible Belt. But part of the charm of this life in the South is that it really is so foreign to me. (I was never called a 'Yankee' till I moved here - I thought I was just a Hoosier!)
            I envy you your food. Especially the Italian markets and delis. My husband talks about the kind of food he grew up with in NY, and he had the same good stuff.
            The history that permeates every building and every town in the South is very much like the historical tradition that runs through the Northeast. Both are places that are proud of their heritage, of the family lines that go back for centuries (way back, in your area!), of the family homes and farms that never change hands.
            I just may take you up on your offer and come visit Connecticut someday! A drive up the New England coast eating nothing but seafood would be a perfect vacation for me and my hubby.

            1. re: jmcarthur8

              Understood loud and clear on the Italian food aspect. One of my girlfriends moved from here to Virginia and always misses what we can sometimes take for granted locally.

              We would welcome you both--and bagelman and our friends on the Southern New England board would make sure you had nothing but good meals!

            2. re: kattyeyes

              Katty----our weather has been unusually hot this past month, but we don't get the 5 months of continued heat they get in the deep south, My electric bill was $800 this past month, I'd hate to have that 5 months in a row, just so I could have laid back country living and a watermelon seed spitting contest....................
              Went to a firehouse lobster bake in Stonington today, next Saturday is the Milford OysterFest, I'll be sluping them down sitting on the harbor wall, something I can't do in a small landlocked Georgia Town

            3. re: bagelman01

              Hey, is it time for the Milford festival already?

            4. Maybe Augusta for the pimento cheese sandwiches in April and any goings on around town then.

              1. In rural Croatia I love going to the local donkey race, lbook festival, the asparagus festival, truffle festival, sole festival, polenta festival...most of my favourites revolve around food, naturally. Oh, and I mustn't forget the wine and cheese and olive oil festivals. I like that there are squashes, for example, sitting out with hand-made cardboard signs that say to pay what you would like to pay. No person in sight. The klapa music festivals are also fantastic - they also often go hand in hand with food, such as the mussels and squid festival.

                The watermelon tasting one would be fun, too. I just love the small town atmosphere.

                ETA: Missed a favourite of ours - the gigantic mushroom festival and hunting competition. Oh, and the truffle festivals always have truffle hunting competitions and truffle hunting dog shows.

                15 Replies
                1. re: chefathome

                  I read with interest of ALL your food festivals (truffle, olive oil, wine and cheese, even polenta!), but maybe most of all the local donkey race. My mom told me when she was a kid, they used to have donkey baseball. I wish we still had it--looks like such a hoot! So thank you for the nudge to see what that looks like:
                  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=55-gHj...

                  Definitely a different vibe and a throwback to simpler times. What's not to love? I also like some of the local spots here that leave out fresh flowers/fruit/vegetables or even firewood on the honor system.

                  1. re: kattyeyes

                    Yes, the local donkey race is a blast! Donkey baseball? I had never heard of that before! Thankis for posting. Oh, and there is also a festival for the prettiest boskarin cow. I adore it.

                    You are so right about its having a completely different vibe. As I said below, the pace is so much slower. People seem to worry about things far less there. The honour system is evident everywhere - I mentioned squash but I have seen little stone planters, eggs, wild asparagus... Some of the many, many, many reasons I love it so!

                    1. re: chefathome

                      How about that? :) I looked up boskarin cattle and found this link to all the wonderful things you told us about--cow included! The gourmet festival description is making me hungry!
                      http://www.coloursofistria.com/food-a...

                      1. re: kattyeyes

                        Very cool! Thanks for posting. Whenever I think of Istria I salivate.

                  2. re: chefathome

                    Croatia is on my bucket list. I am so interested in this place and the people and the customs and the history.
                    Tremendous.

                    1. re: latindancer

                      It is surreal. There are no words to describe it adequately, actually. My husband and I feel so at home when we are there - people are incredibly hospitable and the pace is far slower than in Alberta, Canada. It is sort of like it is stuck in a time long ago when people were important. When someone asks you for coffee, they mean it. You go then. And the beauty! Oh, my. Just stunning. Our house is in forest and surrounded by vineyards, olive groves, etc. The food is brilliant and fresh. The customs are so interesting and the history intriguing and compelling. It is where our hearts belong and where we feel most at home than anywhere else in the world we've been - and we've traveled a LOT. You must experience it! Truly.

                      1. re: chefathome

                        OK, it's official: I want to trade places with you--at least for a little while. :)

                        1. re: kattyeyes

                          Come to Croatia and find out firsthand how wonderful it is! :)

                        2. re: chefathome

                          are private citizens, let alone foreigners, allowed to own property in Croatia? Has all the civil war/ethnic cleansing/genocide stopped? Ironic to hear you speak fondly of it , when so many from that part of the world, fled to start new lives (and lotsa restaurants!) in America

                          1. re: BiscuitBoy

                            BB, I'm in the walk of life when I read all the stuff about "best places to retire", and Croatia is on a lot of them. Times change.

                              1. re: BiscuitBoy

                                There are tons of recent articles on living in Croatia (especially Istria where our house is) - Lonely Planet, National Geographic, etc. For good reason, too. It is pristine and lovely.

                                Sure, it was difficult to purchase our house there (we had to start a company - long story) but a year after we bought the laws became far easier. And now it is cheaper, too, than when we bought. But we would not trade our house/property there for anything.

                                ETA: The most recent article on the top 5 places in the world to retire (as Veggo mentioned above)...http://www.croatiantimes.com/?id=28956

                                1. re: chefathome

                                  Hmm. That link didn't work for me, but this did:
                                  http://www.escapefromamerica.com/2010...

                                  Again, color me jealous. I am sure you have the best of both worlds.

                                    1. re: kattyeyes

                                      Thanks for the link and kind words. I really hope you get the chance to visit yourself some day. Maybe you too will fall in love and buy a house there! :-) Small town festivals and atmosphere to the 10th power. Oh, yes. Did I mention the food? ;)

                    2. I am triple lucky. Living in rural nj means I'm one hour from Philly, and NYC, but reside in a small historic town surrounded by farms. We have 'on your honor' farm and egg stands, and the end of this month is the great tomato taste-off. Over 60 varieties this year. Can't wait

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: sunangelmb

                        That tomato taste off sounds incredible!

                        1. re: chefathome

                          Yes, I cannot wait until August 29, I will be reporting back.

                        2. re: sunangelmb

                          That sounds a lot like the place II grew up in NJ (Hopewell), and loved the honor vegetable stands. I visited this summer and had lots of corn, peaches, tomatoes, pork roll and pizza. I spent 7 days eating myself silly in diners, bars and boardwalks.

                          I now live in the south and loathe the heat, but the laid back living certainly has it's charms. Watermelon spitting contests sound great to me....as well as oyster roasts and clam bakes at the local firehouse.

                          1. re: Bowyer

                            I live in a suburb of Philly and most of the places I've been buying corn and melons and such are honor system. One guy even accepts checks. This has been going on for years and years and that makes me feel really good about living in Pennsylvannia.

                        3. No thanks. I am very happy living between Seattle WA and Vancouver BC. Not much seed spitting here.....but we have wonderful coffee, wine, seafood, technology, rock bands, outdoor sports and endless wilderness that will take your breath away.

                          Your post is very uplifting though! I love that you enjoy where you live and embrace your community...you are fortunate indeed :)

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: sedimental

                            Sedimental - you reminded me of one more thing I love here. Bluegrass. Live. Played and sung by folks who have played and sung it all their lives. We went into one of the old antique/ junk shops in an old train depot in the next town last week, and a half dozen old fellows were jammin' with their banjos, guitars and mandolins, and singing that sweet old bluegrass. I hated to leave.

                            1. re: jmcarthur8

                              Yes! I love spontaneous "events" like that! Sometimes they are centered around food too, like when someone offers you a taste of something -or a food gift that is culturally specific and spontaneous. It really makes you feel connected to your community in a different way.

                          2. A few years ago, I had occasion to visit Griffin and Valdosta in Georgia, which are small by nationwide standards, I imagine, especially Griffin. I'm from Montana, where the very biggest city we have has not yet cracked 100,000, so to me they were not overly small, since a "small town" here is about 5,000 or less. Small town living isn't really for me, mostly because I grew up in it, and there are some really negative things about it as well. But going to the south was a totally new cultural experience for me! Alas, I went in July, and so it was miserably hot, but still, it was fun getting to experience a whole new culture. And grits! I had never had grits, and suddenly they were everywhere, I couldn't believe no one had ever told me about them. Valdosta, particularly, has a special place in my heart.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: GirlyQ

                              GirlyQ, you'll have to take a look at some of the latest grits threads. Lots of good ideas for recipes.
                              Our town is a college town of about 30k, so it's not just a little blip on the map, but it's not city life by any means.
                              The South has a culture like no other part of the country, and I did not know that before I moved here. It's been a fun learning experience. And it's not just the food. It's the outlook on life, the reverence for family, the irreverence for traffic laws and the beastly heat in the summer.

                              1. re: jmcarthur8

                                You make it sound so eutopic. No crime?
                                No drugs?
                                Sounds like Pleasantville.

                                1. re: latindancer

                                  No, I gave up crime and drugs a few decades ago. ;-)

                            2. You almost make me miss Tennessee - well, we were in Nashville, but that feels more like a small town than any other city I've lived in. Almost all of our friends were within walking distance, and we did walk a lot, and sit together on each others' porches and wave at passing acquaintances. There's a sort of commercial version of a farm stand that has regular hippie-type groceries, but also seasonal fruits and vegetables from area farmers and gardeners. Right now would be the height of the fresh field peas that I love so dearly and miss so much. The weather? Ghastly, and often worse at night, but the tree frogs and the lightning bugs still made porch-sitting worthwhile.

                              We go back for a week or so every October, when the weather's usually as good as it gets. But one day, maybe when we can both stop working and travel more, I'd love to take a week's trip in July. I might spend most days going from one air conditioner to another, but I'd have to get to a tractor pull, catch some bluegrass and old-timey music, eat a mess of peas or two and a lot of fresh greens …

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: Will Owen

                                Will, we usually spend a day or two in Nashville when we head North to visit family - you're exactly right, it feels like a small town. It's easy to navigate, the neighborhoods are funky and hip, they're old but not rundown. Quite a few of our musical friends spend time up there, too, particularly at the Bluebird, looking for the next big contract or just a different audience.
                                Tennessee is a beautiful state, and we've found some great places to eat off the beaten path. When time permits, we take the state scenic byways that parallel the interstate highways so we can see the real Tennessee.

                                1. re: jmcarthur8

                                  When we visit in October, it's partly to attend an annual gathering of friends; we take over Wigwam Village in Cave City, KY for a weekend. We usually drive both ways on 30W, which sort of parallels I-24 but is about half again as long, and stop for meals and antiquing in the various towns and villages along the way. And of course in Bowling Green for the Adult Beverages …

                              2. I grew up in Sneads Ferry, NC, & yes, it's pretty much what you picture, a small town near the beach (Topsail), & a large military installation, Camp Lejeune. We have an annual Shrimp Festival which this past weekend was pretty much rained out. I'm going down for a weeks vacation w/ my daughter & I'm looking forward to eating at my favorite local spots- the Riverview, DeNoia's Pizza, & the Lorelei...long live small towns & big memories...

                                1. To be honest, I do miss the South (Athens, Georgia) quite a bit. People are nice, and life is simpler. I am a happy person now, but I think I was happier back then. Kind of like little kid being happy with the simplest things.

                                  In term of foods, I miss Southern barbecue a lot, and waffle house is just such an iconic diner. I do NOT miss the lack of other ethnic foods. Where I lived, there wasn't any good Chinese, Indian, Japanese, Korean restaurant. In fact, there is only a very tiny Asian food store (Fooks Food), smaller than a typical 7/11.

                                  1. Food nostalgia from my small town living experiences: (some towns have since grown up!)

                                    Hamden, CT - my mom's crabapple jelly, and

                                    a beverage she made from currants we gathered, boiled with sugar, strained, chilled, mixed with club soda. Unique.

                                    North Fayston, VT - home made sausage, bloody marys with all ingredients from the garden

                                    Harbison SC - catfish stew on Fridays

                                    Lufkin TX - squash croquettes

                                    Cuchara CO - pan fried trout, apple pie from the bakery down the hill in La Veta

                                    El Oro MX - huitlacoche casserole, chiles en nogada

                                    Q.Roo MX - shrimp tacos, fish burgers

                                    San Miguel Cozumel MX - redfish baked in the ground, w/ local achiote, chilies

                                    Barboursville VA - wine!

                                    Ellenton FL - honey bell oranges in January

                                    1. I think I have it even better. I have two homes. One in NYC and the other a bit east of bagelman. So during the week I get all the variety of NYC and on weekends, I get the quiet charm of a new england coastal town where I can go out and collect my own steamers and oysters.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Bkeats

                                        Same. Here in Canada and in Croatia. The only thing is, we have further to travel to get there! But it is so very worth it.

                                      2. Love small town living. We split our time between a small "Hamlet" on the East End of LI and Manhattan.
                                        Our E End Hamlet does not even have it's own Zip code!!
                                        I keep asking at the local farm stands for watermelon with seeds. No one has them. I think they taste better.
                                        Small town living is fun. Nice going to a restaurant where "everyone knows your name!"

                                        2 Replies
                                          1. re: roxlet

                                            We used to live in Laurel which does have it's own PO and zip code.