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Saturday
Jul202013

Eggplant Parmesan: Just Shut Up and Eat It


I grew up with real eggplant parmesan.  The kind you peeled, sliced thinly across into rounds, then battered and fried.  

This recipe was never deviated from, under penalty from the law.

In fact, my aunt taught me this recipe when I was about 12 years old, and seriously into being a vagabond by staying over at all of my aunts houses whenever I as allowed to.  

Auntie Alice, (top row, middle) the oldest of the Euzzine Girls, grew up during the Great Depression, the first child of Vincent and Caroline, who were fresh off the boat.

Not only did she have the Italian Vegetable Gene, but she learned the art of "putting up vegetables" from her parents, and continued that for all of her life.  When she built a new house, it had a second kitchen in the basement, with a tiny Chambers gas stove, a farmhouse sink, a battered wooden table and shelving to the ceiling.  I hate to think what those appliances are now worth.

Days in the kitchen would go something like this:

Auntie Alice:  Margot, you're young, can you reach under there and get that pan?

Or,

Auntie Alice:  Margot, you're tall, can you reach up and get that pan?

One weekend, she was going to pickle peppers, and had me help by having me peel a dozen heads of garlic.  I used a small paring knife, and by the time I was done, my right thumb was, well, imagine pressing raw garlic juice into your thumb with the sharp edge of a knife about 250 times.

She would either plant her own vegetables, or accept harvest from neighbors who had overplanted, and one year we fried a bushel of eggplant.

You understand the concept of a bushel?  It's a dry volume measurement that goes like this:

2 pints to a quart

8 quarts to a peck

4 pecks to a bushel

Roughly translated, we fried somewhere between 50 and 60 eggplants.  It took a dozen dozen eggs, and 12 pounds of lard.  (Because that's what you fried it in, don't ask questions.)  I can't remember how long it took us (My Aunt, My Uncle, My Cousin and Me), but the six that I fried recently took 3 hours, including cleaning up the mess in the kitchen.

Fast forward to somewhere around 1980, and suddenly everyone is trying to make eggplant healthy. Many failed miserably.  

"The skin must be healthy, lets leave it on."  

No.

"Let's broil it instead of frying it."

Nope.  Try again.

"If we cut it thicker, it won't soak up so much grease when we fry it."  

Ok, but you eat it.  Not me.

Anyway, when I was preparing my Eggplant Parmesean for our post Muster party, I mentioned it at my gym, and the subject very quickly turned to "bad eggplant reviews" from most of the class attendees, and specifically from the instructor, Wendy.

"My mother makes eggplant, and it's always green and kind of crunchy.  I never knew what it was supposed to taste like until I had yours. How do I tell her?

The lesson here is, just make it the old fashion way a couple of times a year, shut up about trying to make it healthy, and eat it.

To my Auntie Jo (bottom row, middle), for all of the threads she has weaved for all of us. Hope you enjoyed your send-off, dear.

 

Reader Comments (2)

You had me at hello, Margo's eggplant. The best I've ever had! My boyfriend is Italian, Genovese is his last name, and he was ooo'ing & aah'ing along with me. How do I perform an intervention, or should I say, an exorcism on my mother's evil eggplant parm? Suggestions please!!!! xoxo

July 31, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterWendy

Thanks, Wendy. I foresee you have two choices: make it yourself, say it was a gift from a famous foodblogger, and invite her over, or print out the recipe and send it to her anonymously. (I'd go with the second choice if it were me.)

August 2, 2013 | Registered CommenterMargot

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