Cheese and culture

Despite the hours it takes and the labor involved, the Santabarbaras do it because they want to " not because they have to. It provides them with an opportunity to spend time with family and pass down traditions and share with younger generations their culture.

"We make wine we, make homemade sauce, we go to the farm and pick tomatoes. We take our grandchildren with us," said the elder Santabarbara.

"This year I had my granddaughter help me with the tomato sauce," said Marianna Santabarbara. "I had all the jars ready, and she put all the basil and parsley in the jars and I put a little apron on her. ... She's 5 years old and she was so excited that she was helping me."

She said that she hopes to teach her granddaughter about the process of making her own tomato sauce someday in the future, when she's a little older, and perhaps a little bigger. Currently, she is smaller than the pot the tomato sauce is made in.

"She had so much fun because she thought she was such a big girl, helping out, and I said, 'When you're a big girl, Grandma will teach you and then you can make your own sauce,'" said Marianna.

Of all of the items the Santabarbara family makes, the cheese might be the most significant. They make it in quantities large enough to sell, and they can't seem to keep it on the shelves. All of the proceeds benefit the Albany Autism Society. It is currently sold at the 4 Corners restaurant in Rotterdam, and the family considered mass-producing it with machines, but they are hesitant.

"As soon as you mass produce it, when the handmade part of it's gone, it does become a little different, so we're trying to be careful because we don't want it to taste like every other cheese," said Angelo Santabarbara.""

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