Saba Parsa + Present Studio
Saba Parsa is the lovely founder of Saba Jam, her namesake company in which she crafts seasonal jams from locally sourced produce. Her flavor combinations are thoughtful, unexpected, and incredibly delicious. Read on for a peek into her present moments.
I make jams or as I like to say, I play with fruits. So my days are almost entirely planned around the fruits that are in season. In the past 13 years of running my tiny jam company I have always let the local fruits dictate how I should spend my days drawing from ancient preservation practices and adding my touch based on how I like to eat. I spend hours in my production kitchen pitting, chopping, and cooking fruits but on sourcing days I get to go down to the farms or the farmers markets and meet the farmers to pick up fruits or to chat about the latest climate effects on the year’s crops.
Traveling has always been my main source of inspiration and it’s nice to be able to get back into it again as we recover from the pandemic restrictions. I was recently in Greece and was reminded how jams are wonderfully appreciated in different ways around the world. Almost every cheese platter we had in Greece was accompanied by a variation of tomato jam - a favorite of mine and one that I think is underappreciated here. And then there’s the simple dessert of jams over thick tangy dollops of yogurt, topped with nuts or not!
I always joke that I see the fruit farmers more than my family! But jokes aside, I find myself more and more drawn to the makers and growers that have chosen a thoughtful process as their path, from farmers, winemakers, to potters. I do ceramics in Fall and Winter because it's the low fruit season and that community of artists has become my strongest community. We have put together the SFCLAYWORKS studio over a decade ago and have seen it through ups and downs - it’s really inspiring to be surrounded by them and talk about our creative process feeling supported along the way.
I love the Bay Area! And the list is very long but here are a few of recent places on rotation.
When I have visitors in town I always start them out by the ocean and make our way down to the city - the recent Kehinde Wiley and Ansel Adams exhibits at the de Young Museum were fantastic. The classic Irish coffee at Buena Vista is my favorite mid-tour stop. The chicken at Zuni Cafe is a must for any visitor but my regular dinner spot is Rintaro and probably the only restaurant that I never skip dessert.
My production kitchen has just moved to Berkeley and I am truly enjoying the food scene there. The most adorable new bakery in town is Sesame Tiny Bakery with the best cakes loaded with fruits. Standard Fare is the perfect lunch spot; Joodooboo has the best banchan and tofu, perfect for hot sunny days and the drunken muscles at Funky Elephant are just incredible. I finally made it to Horn BBQ and was blown away by how good it was; can’t wait to go back. For dinner I usually end up at either Snail Bar or Daytrip - if I could eat their celery salad every night, I would.
I try to make it up to the wine country at least once a month and every time I think why don’t I do it more often! It’s so beautiful up there, good food, good wine, why not? My latest routine has been tastings at Scribe Winery in either their gorgeous hacienda with the best kept garden I’ve ever seen or the picnic area overlooking the vineyard. Then lunch or early dinner at Valley (mortadella sandwich and good wine, yes please!). And I never leave Sonoma without a stop at Mitote Food Park for tacos, aguachiles, and just all around good vibes.
I think I have secretly turned my favorite ritual of playing with fruits into my job! Processing fruits is repetitive work that needs patience but I find it deeply meditative. While preserving work requires much determination I find it to be my most sacred ritual. It’s during this time that I do most of my creative thinking allowing me to set intentions for the rest of what I do and how I do them.
Usually nature does most of the work; many of my combos are fruits and herbs that are in season together. I see them in the market together and can feel their scent in the air at the same time. A quick test batch and surprisingly they usually pair really well. Sometimes it’s a flash of seeing what I have made in the kitchen and I try to pair it with the fruits: I recently decanted the nocino I made from fresh green walnuts last year and had some olallieberries on hand, the combo worked so beautifully I was in tears!