When I was growing up, the sense of community among apartment dwellers was clear. The building that I lived in on the Grand Concourse functioned as a vertical village, with neighbors pitching in and helping one another. People watched over each other’s children, helped out with errands, and some even divided their poultry order, as my mother and her closest friend Fanny did (the Pruzans took the dark meat while the Graf family preferred the white) for many years.
Last week I took my first trip to Houston, Texas, and felt that same sense of community. Although the trip was short, the impressions were long-lasting.
As for the food, I had dinner at a Tex-Mex restaurant where I was introduced to queso, a warm, slightly spicy, cheese dip. I tasted a pecan pie that may have been the best I have ever eaten, and a jalapeño cheese bread that was equally good. Other Texas treats included candied pecans tossed in a salad, roasted sweet potato wedges topped with black sesame seeds, a warm pasta dish served in a poblano sauce, a King’s Cake, and an amazing version of strawberry shortcake served on a biscuit and smothered in Creme Anglaise.
In New York the feeling of community went along with a desire to be a “good neighbor.” In Texas, there is the tradition of Southern hospitality. My future daughter-in-law, along with her sister and parents, as well as their family friends, made us feel at home in a BIG way, Texas style.
Roasted Sweet Potato Wedges
4 medium sweet potatoes
2 Tbs water
2 Tbs olive oil
2 Tbs brown sugar
2 Tbs rice vinegar
1 Tbs sesame oil
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a cup combine the olive oil, brown sugar, rice vinegar, and water. Cover a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
Cut off ends of sweet potatoes. Slice sweet potatoes in half lengthwise, then cut each half on the diagonal into slices about an inch thick.
Pour brown sugar mixture over sweet potatoes, stirring so that they are all coated. Place sweet potatoes on cookie sheet and roast till tender, about one hour.
Garnish with black sesame seeds.