They bubbled and bobbed up to the surface, and before our eyes turned into tiny doughnuts. Hardee scooped them out with a wire net. His wife Linda doused them with sugar and cinnamon and handed them over in a paper tray.
I got to try one; the rest were happily devoured before I finished chewing.
This was not the only treat at the Soda City Market, on the 1500 block of Main Street in downtown Columbia. As the last doughnut was eaten, the kids made a beeline for Laurent Prescelti of Crepes and Croissant, who stood spooning batter onto an enormous round griddle.
We watched as he used a wooden instrument, a cross between a spatula and tiny garden hoe, to swirl the batter around the griddle to make a paper-thin crepe smeared with jam.
But the favorite stall at the market for my two children was, by far, Lime Green.
Angie Mellor, a graphic designer by training, began her business selling lamp shades made of electrical plates and candy dishes made of old record albums as a hobby. Friends began giving her interesting objects and asking her to make fun things with them.
"We take anything used or discarded and bring it to life,” she said. “We repurpose it so it's not thrown away in landfills."
Her imagination seems limitless, and the kids were entranced by aquariums made of coffee pots and games made from old computer keyboards.
While I looked at root vegetables and ravioli, the kids went in search of free samples (happily doled out by places like Cromer's Peanuts and Pangea Bakery, to name just a couple) and talked to a man who makes birdhouses.
If only my children enjoyed eating their vegetables as much as they did shopping for them.
The Soda City Market takes place every Saturday morning from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the 1500 block of Main Street in Columbia. Admission is free.
Insider Tip: Definitely bring a stroller for toddlers and babies.