Some of you who know me likely know that there is one thing in the world I do not like: EGGPLANT. Here is how my relationship with eggplant came to be so troubled.
When I was in elementary school, my mom cut off some fingers and was in the hospital for a while. Grandma came to stay with me and my dad during this time, and Grandma liked eggplant. She thought we should like it too, and she fixed it for us — often. A bit too often for my taste, and I tried to convince her that I was sure it caused brain damage. No such luck though; dad and I kept getting eggplant for dinner. (Grandma breaded it, fried it, and served it with mayo. This is a recipe I didn’t need to inherit!) It was in that 6-week period that I came to understand — intimately — that eggplant tastes like slugs. I saw no reason to have it in my life.
Fast Forward 10 Years
When I was in college ohsomanyyearsago, I took a wonderful botany course called Plants & Civilization (the course has changed a bit since then, and this was not my professor, but nonetheless, it’s neat to see the syllabus). It was a semester-long alphabetical tour of plants that have had a significant impact on people and societies. For example, I learned about how the lovely foxglove plant (digitalis) is a) poisonous, and b) used for heart medication. I also learned that women used belladonna (a deadly nightshade) to dilate their eyes to make them look more “dark” and alluring; belladonna was then manufactured into Atropine, and optometrists use it in a different form to dilate patients’ pupils.
The week we got to the letter “E,” the professor put up a slide of an eggplant, and he said, “This is a plant that we will not discuss. I do not like eggplant, and I see no reason to go into any detail about it. In my expert opinion, it has served no purpose to society. End of story.” He moved to the next slide (Elder), and that was that. I never felt so confirmed in my life! This professor of botany — this expert in this field — agreed with my assessment about eggplant. WOW!
So what I am saying is that I learned quite a bit in this botany class. And to substantiate the claim, here is one piece of history from The World’s Healthiest Foods that aligns with my thinking:
Although it has a long and rich history, eggplant did not always hold the revered place in food culture that it does today, especially in European cuisines. As a result of the overly bitter taste of the early varieties, it seems that people also felt that it had a bitter disposition—eggplant held the undeserved and inauspicious reputation of being able to cause insanity, leprosy and cancer.
Fast Forward 20 Years
Given that I am ok with having my assumptions challenged, I have since tried eggplant pureed in soup, baked with tomato sauce and mozzarella (two ingredients that would otherwise make anything taste yummy), roasted in salads, and countless other ways in order to attempt to reconcile our differences. And still — no matter how it is prepared or disguised — it tastes like slugs.
And then today, this recipe found its way into my email: Eggplant Cheesecake (with chocolate, no less!)
Seriously? I mean, why would you do that to a perfectly defenseless cheesecake, to chocolate, to walnuts, to eggs? If I could find that long-retired professor of botany — the one who CHANGED. MY. LIFE. by confirming my own expert knowledge about eggplant — I would send this recipe to him and let him know that I still remember his course, for in it he taught me one of my most memorable lessons ever: Eggplant has served no purpose to society. End of story.