My First Trip to Sussex County
A couple weeks ago, I had the pleasure of visiting Sussex County for the first time. Nestled up in the northwest corner, Sussex County is geographically New Jersey’s northernmost county but culturally its southernmost. It is known for its mountains, farmland, small towns, and country folk.
The reason for the trip up north was for a friend’s birthday. Driving up to Sussex County, I couldn’t believe the scenery and almost forgot that I was in New Jersey. The gently rolling hills full of trees seem more typical of Pennsylvania and upstate New York. And the signs advertising not one, but two mining museums made me think I was in West Virginia or Kentucky. But all of the strip malls along the way served to remind me that I was still in the Armpit of America.
Another reminder was the numerous signs talking about this one diner – apparently the best diner in New Jersey. Diners are a dime a dozen in this state and usually fall into one of two categories: perfectly average or not so great. Each one claims to have the best of something, whether pancakes, burgers, or omelets. But for a diner to claim to be the best at everything? I was intrigued – but I’d have to do my investigations another day.
We arrived at the birthday party and were greeted by some of the redneckiest rednecks I’d ever seen. And I mean that in the nicest possible way. Everyone was really nice and friendly, just a little more country than any other people I’ve ever met in New Jersey.
But do they know how to cook! One woman walked around with a tray of deviled eggs and implored me to try one. Now, I don’t usually eat deviled eggs. Just the name alone scares me. After I was assured they would be the best deviled eggs I ever had, I gave one a try. It was pretty amazing. As were the three different types of barbecued chicken.
But the star of this show was a dish I’d never even heard of before that day: trucker beans. Though it sounds like something a truck driver might leave on the side of the road when faced with long stretches between rest stops, trucker beans are delicious. The crock pot was full of a saucy blend of beans and meat and some vegetables. It was pretty much just like chili. I’m not sure what differentiates trucker beans from chili, so if anyone out there knows, please tell me.
By the time it got dark, we were all sitting around a campfire in the shadow of this creepy old shed in my friends’ backyard. No one knew what was inside, but I would guess it’s either a meth lab, dead bodies, or drying meats; apparently all three are good possibilities in Sussex County. Anyway, we spent the night roasting marshmallows and playing guitar (well, I just listened to guitar).
My first visit to Sussex County was a short one, and I only went to one backyard in one town. But I loved it. The people were a nice change of pace from the more typical Jersey folk I encounter in my daily life. The scenery on the way up was beautiful, and I had to keep reminding myself that I was still in the Armpit of America. I definitely can’t wait to go back and see more of New Jersey’s least Jersey-like county.