WILLIAMSTOWN >> A mouth watering aroma greeted me as I parked my car next to an outdoor stall where wood fired oven pizza was being offered for sale at the Berkshire Grown Holiday Farmers Market held at the Williams College Towne House on Nov. 22.
It was my first time visiting a Holiday Farmers Market hosted by Berkshire Grown, and I was not only impressed by the wide variety of high quality foodstuffs for sale but the friendly, social atmosphere as well.
Almost everywhere I turned, people were gathered in groups, chatting and laughing. Some sat at tables, shopping bags on the floor beside them, renewing friendships as they munched on lunch fare available at the Holiday Farmers Market.
One shopper in a group of five was showing a photo of his grandchild. "A lot has happened since I last saw you," he said as he smiled.
A vendor was conversing with a couple who had stopped at her booth, where bottles of various wines were displayed.
"When I saw he was wearing a soccer jacket from Curry College [in Milton]," she said, "I realized we had a connection. And as it turns out, I work with his daughter-in-law."
"It's a social event," a Williamstownian said of the Holiday Farmers Market. "We always come to pick up a few things, and we run into people we have not seen for as long as a year."
On Nov. 22, that woman and her husband "bumped into" friends from Pownal, Vt., as well as Williamstown. "Today I bought some greens and a big culinary wreath of bay leaves," the woman from Pownal said.
The only other place I remember seeing so much food was in the open air market my mother shopped Saturdays, with me in tow, when we lived in New York City.
Mother and her sister Irene would arrange to meet at the market, and I was glad my aunt brought along her daughter Barbara, who was my age.
Among the many fruits and vegetable for sale were apples and oranges wrapped in green and yellow tissue paper. My cousin and I would collect the tissue papers that had come lose and had fallen to the ground. We liked to fashion them into bows we attached to our shoes.
The pickles floating in a barrel would call out to us. And I would say to my mother, "Please give me a nickel for a pickle." As soon as our mothers complied with our request, Barbara and I would take the tongs from the side of the barrel to capture the plumpest, largest pickles we could find.
If you wanted a really fresh chicken, the open air market was the place to go. You could select a live one from those in pens, and it would be killed right then and there so you could roast it and serve for dinner.
Mother never bought a killed-to-order chicken. I would have starved rather than eat any chicken I had seen strutting and heard cackling.
At the butcher's concession, my cousin and I liked to watch the butcher make sausages. First he dropped meat into a grinder, pushed it down with a wooden tamper, then he stuffed the ground meat into a tube that shaped it into sausage and encased it in a skin-like substance. Lastly, he twisted the sausage into individual links and tied them with string.
How delicious such sausages were when mother served them with spaghetti swimming in homemade tomato sauce.
At the open air market when our mothers stopped to chat with friends or neighbors they happened to meet, Barbara and I would tug on their spotless, starched house dresses, wanting to move on.
Our last stop was always at the deli section, where salami and cheese hanging from the ceiling whet our appetite for the treat that was in store for us: hero sandwiches — Italian rolls layered with salami, fried eggplant, fried red peppers, provolone cheese, capicola and sliced tomatoes.
Now, I still like all the ingredients that went into the heros, but not all of them like me anymore.