We have calculated ground-state properties of nuclear matter in a simple string-flip quark model in one dimension. Special emphasis was placed on the transition from hadron to quark matter and to the response of the system to color fields. Numerical simulations involving a large number of quarks were carried out for two- and three-quark clusters. This in turn enabled us to investigate the hadron-to-quark transition through the study of finite-size effects. The concept of a sudden-quark potential was introduced as an example of a generic response of the medium to color fields. We have argued that this response might be relevant to the propagation of a rapidly moving quark-antiquark pair (e.g., J/ meson) through the medium.