I had the pleasure of photographing the brothers who run Tangiers International Market in Hartford, CT for an upcoming article in Connecticut Food & Farm Magazine.
When I first arrived at the market, it was quiet and only had a few customers browsing the clean and orderly aisles. I approached the glass display counter that ran the length of one side of the shop. The word DELICIOUS was spelled out in tall block letters and attached to the wall behind the counter. It proclaimed loudly the experience I was about to have exploring and sampling the wares of the market as I worked.
Dwight, the first brother of five brothers I had the pleasure of meeting, greeted me with a bright white-toothed smile that was warm and genuine. He led me to the back of the market towards a lunch counter and tables that was rapidly starting to fill up with customers who all seemed to be known by name.
I had stopped by the previous Saturday and met Winston. He told me that I would have better luck if I came back the next day, more of the brothers would be there. I was a little bummed and he must have sensed that, or he was just being his usual generous self, because he offered to buy me a piece of baklava. I didn't have to give it a second's thought. Of course he could buy me a piece of baklava! I spied it in the case on the way in and was already planning on buying some before Winston offered. He handed me a sunny rectangle of crisp filo dough on a piece of waxed paper and I bit into it as I strolled the aisles. The layers of walnuts and honey were divine and sweet, the filo crackling as I sunk my teeth into each section. Amazing.
I slipped behind the lunch counter to get some shots of Win and Winston at work. Winston was making falafel with tahini dressing at lightening speed. I told Win that I wanted a lamb gyro, put my order in before I started working and he put it on the grill right away. As it sizzled on the grill, I photographed the other dishes they had prepared for me. These included Mediterranean eggplant salad and Mujjederra, a dish made of rice, lentils and sauteed onions. Everything looked as exotic as it sounded. I was told that after I was done shooting all the food, that I had the task of taking it all home with me too. I had better be prepared. No. Problem.
I'm not a writer, I take pictures and design things. Read the upcoming article to get a more poetic take on Tangiers. But I can tell you that this market was full of warmth, good food and real friendship and gratitude from the family that runs it with heart and soul.
When I left the market after the shoot, I not only had my camera gear, but two bags full of all the food I had photographed. Fragrant and warm and ready for me to enjoy. I also had a container of Turkish pastry, lush with pistachios and honey, layered with crisp filo dough and infused with spices.
As I drove away, I was so grateful for this assignment because I got to meet this sweet and welcoming family. They all embraced me and made me feel like I was a friend. They fed me to filled and made me want to come back for more amazing food and company. They sent me home with these beautiful olives, which I just had to photograph. And then eat.
Every. Last. One.