A Candymaker’s Tribute

Last Christmas, I met a new vendor at the Chattanooga Holiday Market who caught my attention.  He was selling peanut brittle (which I love) and I sampled some.  He told me to expect that it would have a different texture than traditional peanut brittle, and it did.  It was delicious, buttery and melted in my mouth (instead of sticking to my teeth).Interestingly though, as good as that brittle was, what I remembered most about Mark Engle of Boston Brittle Company, was his story.  That’s just one of the many great things about buying at local farmer’s markets; you get to know the person who actually made the food or artistry you are buying.

Mark had told me that his mother taught him to make the now popular brittle.  He said that when he was a child, she used to put her brittle into the children’s Christmas stockings. What a childhood treat it had been for him! He told me that he had since lost his mother in 2009 after a series of tragic illnesses, and was determined to introduce the world to her family favorite recipe. So, here we are, seven months later in July (where has the time gone?), and I hadn’t forgotten that sweet story.

I’ve since learned a little more about Mark’s “brittle” story, which is really all about his beloved mother. Susan Marie Zambito grew up in the depression era, born to Italian immigrants. She worked hard growing up to overcome an impoverished life; and, remarkably became an RN in 1955. She raised her family in Boston (thus the company name), but later relocated to Georgia to follow her adult children. She was kind, generous with her time, crafty, and especially cherished by her son Mark.

Mark’s mother is the basis for his passion in his culinary craft. In sharing his delicious brittle creations, he is honoring his mother’s memory and living out his dreams of owning a successful candy business, while developing recipes for dozens of different varieties of brittle. He shared with me that he’d love to be the “Ben and Jerry’s” of the candy brittle world – I believe he can do it.  Meet Mark of Boston Brittle at Chattanooga Market most Sundays or find him on Facebook.

by Melissa Siragusa