15 Minutes With: Naomi Azar + Aaron Wolfe

Naomi Azar is a Chicago native, residing in Carroll Gardens. This is the longest she has lived in any one neighborhood since she was a child – 6 years! She is currently working towards a doctorate in Clinical Psychology while teaching yoga and doing some story telling on the side.

Aaron Wolfe was born in Washington Heights and then moved to (gasp) New Jersey and now Carroll Gardens. He is a film and TV editor, writer, musician, storyteller and general trivia whiz. Special skills: accidentally adopting other people’s accents, and ordering dim sum.

Read about their foie gras war, ice cream makers and more after the jump.

What was the food culture in your house growing up?

Naomi: I clearly remember the smell of fish when I would come home at night. My sweet mom believed herself to be a great cook, but in truth every night included a limited range of ingredients: teriyaki sauce, frozen veggies, fish or chicken and rice. Other quirky antics include refrigerating garlic, washing garlic, and dressing large amounts of salad rendering the leftovers soggy and inedible.

 Aaron: I was the first child so my parents still had a ton of energy. I was raised on tempeh, seitan, dry chunky peanut butter, carob bars for treats, and, if my mom was working the night shift at the hospital, spinach linguine with pesto

One food you won’t you eat?

N: Foie gras. Just can’t get past the image of a duck being practically choked for my pleasure.

A: Tempeh, seitan, spinach linguine with pesto… Seriously, I’ll eat almost anything. I get squeamish around snails, but if someone told me that the ones at my favorite dim sum place were great I’d probably dig in.

Favorite vegetable?

N: Gotta say that kale has held onto my heart for a while now. Salad, baked and crispy, sautéed…yum.

A: Though I want it on record that I disagree with Naomi on the foie gras answer, I agree wholeheartedly with the kale answer. Actually, here my Eastern European roots begin to show: give me hearty greens or cabbage of any kind, really.

Favorite food experience?

N: Outdoor cooking. Eating a delicious, simple meal after a long day of hiking. Making pizza in an outdoor cob oven on a permaculture farm on a volcanic island in Nicaragua. Being under the stars with a delicious bottle of wine.

A: Oh, boy, after the foie gras debacle we’re two for two. I’ll only add that the first time I braised short ribs was pretty life altering.

Favorite appliance?

N: I do LOVE my ice cream maker.

A: Dutch oven.

Most disastrous kitchen or garden experiment:

N: When I was an excited 18-year-old – newly indoctrinated into the idea of growing my own food — I decided to dig up a large portion of my parent’s backyard. I would be living there for all of one month over the summer, and planned to create the most incredible garden. I did not believe in squares.

Instead I dug up land in a curvy shape extending along the entire backyard. I had never gardened before and by the end of my digging had a nagging sensation that maybe I had overshot my efforts. Now what? Where do I plant and how? The next morning I saw my dad out back – replacing all the dirt that I had dug the previous day.

“What are you crazy? Digging up the entire yard? You think that is a garden?!” he asked. Then he outlined a small patch of land in the corner of the yard…just manageable enough for a first-timer.

A: I worked as a line cook at a Greek restaurant in Northampton, Mass. I won’t go into too many of the details as the majority are rated R, but I will say that during first few weeks in a professional kitchen I cut my hand dozens of times, burned my cheek on a Frialator, and went home stinking of feta cheese. Eventually I fell in love with the job, but for those first few weeks I barely had an appetite.

Why are you involved in CSAs?

N: I love supporting a cause I believe in. I love the community. I love what it stands for – like a big F-You to the Ikea across the street. We will decide where our food comes from, thank you very much! And, though it is sometimes a burden, I do enjoy discovering new veggies. Last year’s big discovery was fried okra.

A: Hey, hey, why are we cussing at the Ikea? Its Ugenhaajn Blaakejrn line of platters is perfect for fried okra!

I’m involved because the happiest I have been in my life has usually been centered on good food. The best food I’ve eaten has been food I’ve been connected to. And I love the fact that the Red Hook Farm is on land that is being re-imagined and reclaimed from urban decay. I’d like to see a New York where farms and gardens on rooftops and back lots is a norm.

What’s the best lunch option near you?

N: Eating something delicious that Aaron made while sitting on the fire escape in spring.

A: Red Hook vendors. (Naomi was being sweet with her answer about my cooking, but she actually would choose a pupusa over my food any day).

What inspires you?

N: Permaculture. Bringing together food, community and all the systems of which we are a part. And specifically those in the permacutlure world who are driven to cultivate growth and balance, who address issues of food security and who live sustainably.

A: Great art. And soccer. Oh and a good piece of pop-culture that surprises. And super smart scientists. And activists. And hanging out with people that are doing something bold and interesting. Okay: perfect night: a bunch of activists, artists, high-energy physicists, and raconteurs comes over and we munch on kale chips while watching a Tottenham Hotspur match.

Your opinion: Does talking to plants help them grow?

N: YES!

A: NO! Though a blast of CO2 never hurt a plant.

Do you sing to them?

N: YES!

A: NO!

Best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

N: Have courage.

A: Keep your face away from the Frialator.

Tell us one thing about yourself that would surprise us.

N: I think I might have been raised more by my childhood German shepherd than by either of my parents. Her name was Champ and she would growl whenever my mom would try to pick me up from my resting spot on her belly. To this day I have an inexplicable connection to dogs.

A: I come from a long line of people who don’t like surprises. That said, the first solid food I ever ate was hand-ground Japanese food. I also liked Chinese food so much that my parents would sit me on the lazy Susan and I’d push myself around the table feeding off of everyone’s plate.

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