On the occasion of #SmallBusinessSaturday, Permanent Collection caught up with Saba Parsa, the woman behind the very small business, Saba Jam, whose delicious artisanal quince cardamom jam we've included in our new 'The Sweet Tooth' holiday gift bundle.
Permanent Collection: Saba, tell us which of the things in your collection is your 'permanent collection' possession.
Saba Parsa: A small curved paring knife (I think it’s actually called a bird’s beak knife!) that belonged to my grandma. It’s a J.A. Henckels knife and I remember vividly how she used it all the time to do all the fruit processing in her kitchen. Now I’m doing exactly the same—I keep it very sharp and do all my fruit prep with it: strawberries, apricots, quince...all of them!
P.C.: Why did you select this piece?
S.P.: After grad school when I moved back to San Francisco from Boston, I had a new appreciation for the bounty of California fruits. While I was eating up all the delicious fruits in Bay Area, my partner was still living in Boston and eating the tasteless truck-ripened peaches available there. So, in an attempt to share the fruits with him, I started preserving as many as I could and sending them to him. This was back in 2008 and I haven’t stopped since. Once I started, I got more and more involved: processing the fruits became a nightly meditative ritual when I came home from work and that has helped me through many rough patches over the years; the fruits are what keep me connected to seasons and define the rhythm for my life. As I learned more techniques, I realized how much of this flow of seasonal preserving is what I grew up with back in my grandparents’ home in Tehran.
P.C.: What's your greatest source of creative inspiration?
S.P.: Literature! Reading—whether it’s fiction, poetry, or biography—truly inspires me to see the bigger picture. It reminds me that I, and my daily, mundane rituals are part of a larger puzzle. It pulls me out of my own head, so I have space to think about what I’m creating next. And of course, the seasons and the excitement that comes with change: as the peaches give way to pomegranates and persimmons, I learn to let go of one and embrace the other.
P.C.: Describe a current project or obsession...
S.P.: Currently (and as long as I remember) I’ve been obsessed with making quince more known and loved in the US! When I immigrated to the US from Iran in 2000, I was shocked that not very many knew about quince...and that was back in California! Over the past 20 years, they have become a lot more known and appreciated in California but now that I live in Colorado, I have yet to meet anyone who knows what quince is or even if they’ve heard of it, they’ve never had it. The Colorado farmers grow beautiful apples and pears and I am always trying to convince them to grow quince. This year, my friend sent me a sapling from his quince tree in Maine and, full of hope, I planted it – this week beautiful green fuzzy buds are peaking from the branches!!! So maybe I am bringing the “quince revolution” to CO! In the meantime, I’m obsessed with making quince marmalades and membrillo from California fruits I get from the Iranian market in Denver.