Adam H: Questions on Your Life in Food
Anyone who has spent time with Adam knows immediately that he is passionate about food and cooking. We love grocery shopping, cooking, and eating together and I’m so lucky to share this adventure in life and food with him. He is a wonderful storyteller and I hope this is one of many guest blog posts to come.
If you were given a dollar to buy treats when you were a kid, what would you buy?
Probably Nerds or Everlasting Gobstoppers or maybe a Blue Bell ice cream sandwich.
Was dessert a special treat or a nightly ritual?
Nightly ritual. Probably ice cream. Chocolate, Rocky Road, anything Blue Bell. My mom is addicted too.
What food do you throw out? Do you eat leftovers?
I love leftovers. I don’t throw anything out. In the fridge, Jodi sometimes calls these “experiments”, but I call them “food.”
What kind of cooking did your father do when you were growing up?
He did all the cooking in the house… Lots of different things, but especially Jewish soul food. We would often have upwards of 30 people over for major feasts like Passover and Thanksgiving and he would cook for a couple days to prepare. He makes brisket, kugels, blintz soufflé, potato taygas which is potatoes with a metric ass-load of garlic and butter, and a bunch of other Jewish dishes. He like to make chicken for friends sitting Shiva (the period after a family death) because it is easy to make in quantity quickly. It’s basically chicken roasted in duck sauce with mushrooms, onions and carrots that is flavorful and moist.
He also loves to BBQ and had an old oil drum style smoker in the backyard, along with another drum of wood chips soaking in water and/or apple juice. Lenny and some of his friends have been barbecuing for charity organizations around town for years and eventually, one of them bought a massive smoker on a trailer so they could do larger events. Since a lot of the events are for Jewish groups and require Kosher meats and cooking gear, they decided to Kosherize the BBQ pit which involves a bunch of dudes standing around ready to grill, a Rabbi, and a guy with a flamethrower to get the metal red hot so it can be blessed.
When I was young, he would make French toast with a nice fat slice of challah from Three Brothers Bakery which is the best challah in Texas. Another breakfast item was something he liked to call the Lenny Special which was a pan toasted slice of challah, a fried egg, and cheese (American), maybe with a seared piece of meat thrown in once in a while. This explains my great love of the finest fast food breakfast creation in the land, the Breakfast Jack.
Who did the grocery shopping?
Probably my dad. My mom likes to bake and would make cookies, brownies, or her specialty – banana bread. I would get her to make banana bread all the time, then toast it for snacks adding peanut butter and banana, peanut butter and honey, or whatever tasty morsels were around the house after school. We would go to Randall’s right by our house in Southwest Houston. That store was always fun as it was a hilarious mix of shoppers – In addition to the usual flow of Jewish moms, I’d regularly see Rudy Tomjanovich (the coach of the Rockets when they won two NBA titles) and Bushwick Bill (from the Geto Boys).
Did you share food with your neighbors?
No. Our neighbors are weird. But two blocks away was Daniel Smith’s Israeli mom so I used to go over there all the time and she would make Chicken Schnitzel, Falafel, and other Israeli dishes. That was always good.
Did you say grace?
We used to go to my Bubbe’s house for Shabbat dinner on Friday’s and she would always make a big meal. We would say the standard Shabbat prayers for candles, bread and wine.
Where did you buy your meat?
Mostly the grocery store but there used to be a butcher shop in Houston on Willowbend near Fondren that I loved going to because it was the old school kind of place that doesn’t really exist anymore, at least not in places like Austin or Houston. Briefly, there was a Kosher butcher on Braeswood near Chimney Rock Road but they eventually closed due to excessive owner schmuckdom.
What did your mom make you when you were sick?
My dad would make me chicken soup, which came from my Bubbe’s recipe and I’m sure her mother before. Her chicken soup is “famous” as she was once featured making “Jewish Penicillin” on Dr. Red Duke’s nationally syndicated health news segment. She’s maybe 4’11″ tops so she was standing on a footstool to reach the stove for the cameras.
Did you ever steal a pack a gum at the store?
Like Linda Leitch Bart, there might have been a few items missing in my past.
Have you ever made your own beer and wine?
I made beer a number of times during and after college. One time, we made a Honey Wheat and the recipe called for 3 lbs of honey, but we may have had a few other beers before we started the process. The homebrew shop sold local honey only in 5 lb buckets so we just dumped the whole thing into the wort and since the alcohol content of the beer is determined by how much sugar is in the mixture the beer ended up at about 12.5% alcohol so that was fun to give to unsuspecting visitors to our house.
A friend’s father came by and the beer had just matured so we gave him one and he downed it quickly and asked for another. Maybe 15 minutes later he attempted to head back to work but stood up, swayed around for a bit, almost fell over, and thought better of it.
Another fun element of beer making is you have soda kegs and CO2 lying around that you want to make useful. I lived with 8 guys and we had house parties a lot so I started mixing up kegs of gin and tonic, with fresh lime. Having cocktails easily available on tap proved to be pretty dangerous and memories of those parties are all pretty fuzzy.
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