Quarantine cooking at Ciesluk’s Market

By TINKY WEISBLAT For The Greenfield Recorder, May 6, 2020

COVID-19 has affected a lot of lives and a lot of businesses, both internationally and domestically. One local enterprise doing its best to serve customers during this difficult time is Ciesluk’s Market on North Main Street in South Deerfield.

The market opened just under two years ago, in May 2018. It is helmed by Nikki Ciesluk with her domestic and business partner, David Grover, and her daughter, Cassidy.

I recently asked Ciesluk why she decided to run a market.

“I’ve always done cooking and baking,” she said. “I just wanted to do more than I was doing. And South Deerfield was needing this. We didn’t have a market anymore. We didn’t have a bakery anymore. You couldn’t get produce in the winter.”

At first, she noted, the three found working together a little trying. “The first six months, everybody was so tired,” she sighed. Over the months, they have established a good rhythm, however. “We get along 95 percent of the time. We’re doing good,” Ciesluk said.

She reported that, in general, the business has done nothing but grow since the market opened its doors. “Business has been building and building … up until now,” she said.

The pandemic has presented challenges, not just in terms of how the business operates (no reusable bags, making sure customers and staff stay far apart, requesting that people order take-out items in advance in order to avoid lines) but also in terms of getting supplies in.

“It’s a different animal, I have to say,” Ciesluk declared about business right now. “You have to think outside of the box. There are a lot of things that you’re not able to get right now. I can’t get flour, yeast, rice. … All of those things we’re buying in bulk and re-bagging for people.”

She explained that she deals with a number of suppliers on a regular basis. Lately, the process has been more spread out than normal in terms of ordering. Generally, she told me, her business is more or less split 50-50 between prepared foods (sandwiches, soups, cakes, cookies, etc.) and groceries.

Right now, the market has fewer sandwich orders than it usually does. Customers still gravitate toward Cassidy Ciesluk’s cookies, pies, muffins and cakes, however.

Main-dish comfort food is also popular.

“Customers enjoy homemade pot pies,” Nikki Ciesluk stated. “Homestyle cooking, things that people don’t usually get when they take out. Even tuna-noodle casserole! We always make a ton of meatloaf; meatloaf is always a good seller. Mac and cheese is, too.”

Even during the pandemic, she affirmed, the business attracts a variety of customers, not all of whom are local. “They hear from us on Facebook and they come down,” she said. She mentioned that Polish specialties like perogies and the store’s variety of kielbasa constitute particular draws.

Especially in this time of quarantine, Ciesluk explained, the store tries to cater to customers’ needs. “We’re always making changes. I’m always trying to bring new products in. If somebody comes in and is looking for something we don’t have, 99 percent of the time I can get it.”

She and her partners do their best to look out for the community, buying local bread and produce whenever they can and helping out those in need. The market recently donated cookies and cookie-decorating kits to the residents of a local nursing home.

“They needed it,” Ciesluk observed. “They’re all closed in right now.”

Despite the challenging time, Ciesluk says she finds the work she and her market are doing worthwhile. “I think I’m happy right now,” she said. “I just want to make people happy and give them something they can look forward to.” Tinky Weisblat is the award-winning author of “The Pudding Hollow Cookbook,” “Pulling Taffy,” and “Love, Laughter, and Rhubarb.” Visit her website, tinkycooks. com.

Nikk i’s Meatloaf

Nikki Ciesluk usually doubles this recipe since she sells a lot of meatloaf. You may halve it as well.

2-1/2 pounds ground beef 2 eggs 1 cup multigrain bread crumbs (The market grinds its own with the leftover ends of bread from the deli. Regular bread crumbs are fine, however.) plus 2 fresh bread ends, crumbled 1/2 onion, chopped 1/2 green pepper, chopped 1 cup milk 1-1/2 teaspoons minced garlic 1 tablespoon dry mustard 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce 1-1/2 teaspoons salt 1-1/2 teaspoons ground pepper 1/2 cup ketchup Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine all the ingredients except the ketchup with your hands. Place the mixture in the pan of your choice. Pat down the meatloaf and then top it with the ketchup.

Bake for around 45 to 60 minutes; the time needed will depend on the thickness of the loaf. “Just watch to make sure that top does not get over browned,” says Nikki Ciesluk. “Take it out of the oven and serve with your favorite potatoes!” Serves 10.