Food for Political Thought

White becomes Houston's big tuna -- and that's no yolk!

Imagine this scenario: Soon-to-be-mayor Bill White comes off a late-night round of community meetings to spend a grueling morning sorting through financial wreckage at City Hall. His energy is flagging. He needs sustenance desperately, but there's time for only a brief bite.

So what's his pick-me-up of choice?

Riyad and Ibtisam Saman, the proprietors of Zubey's Deli in the downtown tunnel under the Wedge International Tower, know from seven years of experience. When White took over as Wedge Group CEO, he initiated the Samans in his favorite lunch, now immortalized on their blackboard menu as "the Mayor's Sandwich." It's a gooey concoction of sliced tomatoes, tuna salad, lettuce and hot peppers, slathered on whole wheat. White is flexible about some of the ingredients, as long as there's plenty of heat in the mix.

The mayor-elect's lunch has heat -- but no white 
bread.
The mayor-elect's lunch has heat -- but no white bread.

"If we run out of tuna, he'll take chicken salad," notes Mrs. Saman. And if White is really hungry, he'll occasionally dial up the Samans' special Frito pie, a bowl of corn chips drenched with plenty of cheese and spicy homemade chili.

The Insider wolfed down the Mayor's Sandwich last week, and can testify to the power of the jalapeños to warm the spirit and keep those post-lunch drowsies at bay.

Officials got heated by another kind of muny meal served up at City Hall recently. Departing District A Councilman Bruce Tatro took his final turn to cater the traditional council breakfast buffet, and the defeated controller candidate was not in the mood to please.

Councilmembers' preferences for eggs had been thoughtfully solicited in a Tatro staffer's e-mail the previous day. But when they arrived the next morning, the officials confronted a menu from the bachelor councilman's personal Hell's Kitchen.

On the table in a carton were raw eggs in the shell, each marked by council initial or number, canned clams and sardines, and tins of generic potted meat. For libations, standard coffee was accompanied by vinegar and prune juice. A quart of mayo and lard beckoned as toppings. Cans of fruit cocktail stood at attention for dessert.

For the culinary faint of heart, the councilman did provide a stack of bagels and cream cheese off to the side.

"It ran the gamut of food groups," explains the fiscally hyperconservative Tatro, between bursts of laughter. "These were all generic because we couldn't afford name brands. That would have been a budget buster."

Tatro says his hungry colleagues consumed a surprising amount of the buffet, including the potted meat, Vienna sausage and clams. District D's Ada Edwards even sipped prune juice.

Several officials who expected steaming scrambled eggs were less than amused. A Tatro aide told District C's Mark Goldberg that the freaky foods were a joke. "I don't see what's funny about it," Goldberg huffed.

Tatro denies his going-away feast was a final expression of his notorious "Dr. No" council persona. "It was more or less comedic relief," he insists. "We had a good laugh picking it up afterward."

One thing to be said for the councilman: He certainly knows how to leave people with a bad taste in their mouths. -- Tim Fleck

 
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