Let me first say this: I like eggplant. I really do.
I like how it tastes, pretty much with no adornment. I slice it and grill it and drizzle it with olive oil. Sometimes a splash of balsamic.
I’ve never been one for ratatouille. Or eggplant parmesan. Because, I don’t know, tomatoes on eggplant just doesn’t really sound good to me. I used to work at The Malt Shoppe in college. To my mind it was a burgers and malt place. I mean, it was called The Malt Shoppe, right? But there was this weird hippy element to the menu. And ratatouille was one of their more popular items. Understand something: this was before I met Dave and I was still, at that point, a “picky eater” whose acceptable vegetables were a short list: raw carrots, canned (not garden) beans, iceberg lettuce and corn on the cob. So all these people ordering ratatouille at The Malt Shoppe…
Frankly, it just grossed me out.
And maybe I’ve never gotten over it.
Don’t judge me. I’ve come a long way.
So anyway. I started growing eggplant years ago, after reading that they are quite pretty plants in the vegetable garden. I had never once eaten one. In fact, I’m pretty sure that I didn’t even know that eggplant was a major ingredient in ratatouille. And then I grilled one and really liked it. I found they even froze quite well.
The problem was, no one else in the family really liked them.
Not even Dave, Dave the Vegetable Slave. So I got all these damn eggplants and no one to eat them. And I learned over time that they are pretty hard to give away. Eggplant is far from beloved by the masses.
And then this year, I went and bought an “eggplant variety pack” at my favorite nursery, so instead of my normal one or two plants I have six. And they are all doing wonderfully, thank you very much. Why can’t my damned tomatoes do as well?
And then there’s that whole element of my personality that can hardly believe that I like something that Dave doesn’t. And so I keep trying to get him to like eggplant (and mushrooms and tofu) by trying new things and torturing him (and Charlie). Tonight it was Yotam Ottolengho’s eggplant and lentil recipe from this utterly gorgeous cookbook called Plenty.
It showed promise for a couple reasons:
- Eggplant was not even close to being the main ingredient
- The eggplant was not in slices or chunks and therefore it might be less obvious and therefore objectionable.
I was really excited about this. And not just about the recipe itself, but the sweet taste of victory. Washed down with the delicious tang of smug when I announced to Dave he really did like eggplant all along!
I know that you know where this is going. I wouldn’t tip my hand so early if all had gone well. But this… this recipe was just such an utter disaster that I am still reeling. I simply cannot believe how unbelievably awful that orb of puss tasted.
Yes. I said orb of puss.
Or would you prefer I call it a mouthful of snot?
It’s up to you.
My God in Heaven. It was the single most vile tasting thing that I can remember coming out of my kitchen ever. And that doesn’t even begin to explain what it looked like.
Even worse, I can discern nothing that went wrong. Usually when a recipe or technique flops, I can point to some absurd substitution I’ve made. But this went so well. You start by cooking the whole eggplant over the gas burner of a stove — so cool! And it worked awesomely.
It’s supposed to be totally charred and deflated. Check. Check. Then you wait for it to cool off and peel the blackened skin off.
Hmmm. Ok. That’s pretty gross, but… check.
So you scoop out the flesh and mash it up and season it well and splash it with balsamic. Sounds fabie. But my gosh, does it look awful.
And now for the taste test.
Well I already told you it was like a mouthful of snot. But what is harder to describe is the taste. I roasted three different, very fresh, eggplant varieties. And they all tasted awful. Like… I don’t even know. Watery blood. Metallic. I didn’t even know what to do with the disaster that was my kitchen with the several bowls full of watery tasting bloody snot.
I walked around in shock. I couldn’t get the taste out of my mouth.
So I made brownies.
And ate them for dinner.
Cuz I just found out that Dave isn’t even coming home tonight. How ironic is that? Here’s another irony: I was on my way out with some of the hellacious byproduct to see if my poor chicken would be interested in eating it and guess who ate it all before I could find out?
Hey! Mikey! He likes it! So weird.
Does anyone want some eggplant? I got a lot of it.