Farmers’ Market Holiday Dishes Evoke Family Roots

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By Himanee Gupta-Carlson

 

Marcie Place, owner of The Chocolate Spoon, fills her stall at the Saratoga Farmers’ Market throughout the year with festive treats: tahini-dark chocolate chip cookies, Turkish coffee shortbreads, saffron and citrus teacakes, and ma‘amoul, a rosewater infused shortbread style cookie with a filling of walnuts and cinnamon sugar.

Baked into these treats is a love for her heritage, which is part-Syrian.

“My father’s family came to America from Syria in the 1940s,” says Place. “He spent much of his childhood with his Syrian aunts learning the fine art of Syrian bread-making. He spent many Sundays watching them make large loaves of Syrian bread, lathered in butter and piled high in wooden bushel baskets. Later my siblings and I were able to participate in these glorious day-long events.”

Being Syrian also meant celebrating American holidays like Thanksgiving with meals that were deliciously non-traditional. As Place recalls, “Our holiday meals consisted of Syrian rice, stuffed kousa (a Syrian squash), m‘judrah (a savory dish of rice and lentils), rolled grape leaves and ma‘amoul.”

“Our family,” she adds, “is still not very good at preparing the traditional Thanksgiving meal.”

Perhaps, however, there is tradition in breaking tradition, which is what the Saratoga Farmers’ Market invites you to try doing this holiday season.

While the weekly offerings reflect the best of what’s local and seasonal, the faces of those who bring the market to life are diverse in ethnicity, nationality, and culture. Stroll through the market and you will meet vendors, staff, and volunteers who claim French, German, Israeli, Syrian, Indian, Mexican, Italian, Dutch, Irish, and other roots. How they tell market visitors to prepare the meats, vegetables, and other items they sell reflects those roots, and the recipes that accompany this story are aimed at helping you innovate.

While Place doubts she’ll ever be able to master Syrian cooking as well as her father did, she says that “honoring my dad and his heritage through my baking is a great privilege to me. After all, food is love.”