Fairly soon, I’ll be eating my words.
For years I’ve been making fun of eggplant — that mushy fruit that seems to have little value except that it happens to be purple. Purple is one of my favorite colors.
Eggplant is mushy and needs to be deep-fried. To make it more palatable, we smother eggplant in garlic, hide it in stews or batter and deep-fry.
I’ve written so much about my disdain for eggplant, I thought I might never write about it again.
Of course, my Handsome Woodsman loved eggplant, which kept the joke alive — even now after he died.
Last spring I was at the downtown farmers market looking at the lush plants grown by Sherri Scott. On impulse, I bought a tiny eggplant and put it in the place where the Handsome Woodsman grew eggplant last year. I remember laughing at myself as I carefully carried the plant through the sea of flirting teenagers and actual market shoppers.
The plant grew, it flowered, it produced a single, faded purple, globe-shaped eggplant. I’m so glad it was such a terrible summer for growing produce, because I only have one eggplant to consider eating.
Perhaps I’ll smother it with garlic this winter, and mix it with stewed tomatoes, and maybe even deep-fry a slice or two. I could carefully carve out the contents, fill the eggplant with holiday candy and use the fruit as a piñata.
They dry well, as I know, because I have some dried eggplant that I grew and did not eat last year. I like to make holiday gifts. I’ll let you know if I choose to cover last year’s eggplant with decoupage.
More than likely, I’ll fry up a slice or two of this year’s sole eggplant and remember why I do not like eggplant.
The things we do for love.
Another name for eggplant, as many of you likely know, is aubergine. Somehow thinking of this word makes the fruit more beautiful. I see a little girl named Aubergine, perhaps in the 1920s. She’s wearing a flowered dress, made by her mother, and riding a wagon filled with bushels of wheat. I smother my eggplant with garlic, I’ll think of Aubergine, and smile sweetly before remembering why I don’t care for eggplant.
If the word aubergine doesn’t make the purple mush sound more appealing, why not try on melanzana, which is how they say eggplant in Italian. In the West Indies, they call it “brown jolly,” and at times it’s known as “mad apple” in England. We could make up stories night and day about how those names came about. In Portuguese, it’s beringela, and in Perisan badenjan. If you use any of these names to hide the true identity of your eggplant casserole, you might be able to trick anti-eggplant folks into trying something new.
YES, A FRUIT
If you hiccupped when you read eggplant described as a fruit, that’s another fun thing to consider. Many of the foods we call vegetables are actually fruits. The technical definition of a fruit is the “edible reproductive body of a seed plant,” according to Merriam-Webster’s online info.
This category includes tomatoes, which are certainly sweet enough to make it onto a dessert plate. Pumpkins and squash count in the fruit category as well. While we’re talking fruit, I might as well mention avocado, squash, cucumber, peppers, okra and olives.
Maybe parents can use this information to improve the health of their young ones.
“Eat all the fruit on the plate, otherwise you can’t have dessert.”