The Bubbe Chronicles Vol. 1: Eating with Bubbe
Adam’s Bubbe, Bessie Holzband, is ninety eight and a half years old. We love to spend time with her when we visit Houston for holidays like Passover and most recently, Thanksgiving.
I’ve known Bubbe for less than a year but she introduces me as one of her grandchildren to the staff and residents in her retirement community. It’s very sweet. I call her Bubbe which isn’t a conflict of interest for me because: a) all of my grandparents have passed away and b) my grandmothers were known as “Mama” and “Nagymama” respectively.
Bubbe is a kindred spirit. She loves food — especially dessert and chocolate (like her grandson Adam). One of her favorite topics is what they serve in her cafeteria vs. what they served at the Medallion, where she lived until this past spring. I love listening to her talk about anything, especially about her history and of course food.
Adam and I sat and talked with Bubbe, along with Marilyn, a family friend, before Thanksgiving dinner this year.
Bubbe (BB): I don’t like pumpkin pie. [turns to Marilyn] You love it?
Marilyn (M): Me? Yes, I do.
BB: I think about all that goop that you take out of the pumpkins when you make it. And, you put a lot of cinnamon in it.
Adam (A): You don’t like cinnamon?
BB: I love cinnamon.
BB: Since I’m in Texas, I love pecan pie. I’ll tell you what I eat in the pecan pie [originally from Iowa, Bubbe also lived many years in Los Angeles]. Only the top. The pecan’s are delicious. You know what is one of my favorite pies? Key lime. I love key lime. Years ago, I used to make lemon squares as a substitute to that key lime pie but I never had that lime taste. To this day, Carol (Bubbe’s niece) makes them and calls them Aunt Bessie’s Squares.
BB: I like sweet potatoes. But, I’ve never eaten sweet potato pie. I’m not sold on all the crusts. I like most of the cream pies. They serve us wonderful desserts at the Belmont. They served chocolate cream pie and….That. Is. Good. It’s the real whipped cream. I hate cool whip. Real whipped cream has a very slight beige color. It’s off-white because it has more air in it.
Jodi (JB): Tell us about the club sandwich.
BB: That was a mistake. The dining room is being redone. The club sandwich had ham and bacon and cheese. So I bit into it and I looked in the corner and I looked all around and I says, I gotta find a place to spit this. I split it in my napkin. I didn’t eat it. It was whole wheat bread and I didn’t eat the lettuce and I didn’t eat the tomato and I didn’t eat the cheese or the ham. I didn’t suffer from not eating it.
BB: I’ll tell you the truth, I like the food at the Belmont, and I eat a lot more different things there than I ever ate at Medallion but I do miss some of the Jewish food.
BB: Once they had corned beef. Their corned beef [non-Jews] doesn’t look like our [Jewish-style] corned beef.
Lenny (Bubbe’s son and Adam’s dad): They steam it, they cut it thicker and they usually serve it with cabbage.
BB: So I ordered a corned beef sandwich. They didn’t have rye bread so they brought me white bread. I can’t eat white bread, it sticks to the roof of my mouth.
BB: I don’t like goyishe [non-Jewish] food. I love shrimp. I don’t like clams, I don’t like scallops [Adam tells me that Bubbe keeps "kinda kosher," except for fried shrimp which is her favorite].
The conversation continued a couple days later when Adam and I sat with Bubbe as she sat down to dinner at the Belmont.
BB: I like grape juice. It tastes like wine. That’s what i drink. it’s supposed to be good for you. Trouble is, everything I like is fattening.
BB: I have to put it on like this because I dribble [on tucking her napkin into her shirt like a bib].
BB: I put salt on everything. They [the cooks at the Belmont] don’t put salt on anything.
BB: I can’t have white bread [to the waitress ].
BB: I can’t eat white bread, I hate it [to me and Adam].
Stay tuned for more of The Bubbe Chronicles: Eating with Bubbe. I’m hoping that she’ll let me record video of her talking about food. She is the best story teller and remembers everything and I love the way her voice gets high at the end of each sentence.Tags: adam, bubbe, houston, lenny h.