Interesting that I would think of this story, actually a metaphor, at Christmastime, because, except for giblet gravy, liver was not a part of our family tradition and neither was Eggplant, for that matter. It’s just, well, about power and our struggle to create some illusion that we have it. In the day before yesterday’s posting, it was about challenging traditions, roles, expectations, and what meaning we can create and celebrate from our own experiences. Rejecting the physiologically repugnant on the one hand, and opening our minds to the process of acquired tastes.
The recipe in this posting is really quite wonderful and I invite you to either have a go at making your own or at least acquiring a jar at a specialty store.
The Difference Between Liver and Eggplant.
My mom fried liver and onions like this. Dredge in flour, fry it in bacon grease along with a bunch of onions and serve it up with broccoli. We lived in Baldwin Park the first time Mom served up liver. It was the mother of all power struggles as I recall. When I gagged up the first bite my mom’s face got all red and screwed up. I knew I was in for a rough night. Take another bite, toss it up, how many times, I just don’t know. She stood over me. Arms crossed, a scowl. Waiting. Foot tapping. I think I won that round because Mom told me that if I didn’t eat my liver I could jolly well see how I’d like it for breakfast. Win by default, for a minute. At breakfast everyone else had oatmeal. The liver standoff between my mother and me entered round 2. I got my stubborn streak from my mother. No mas.
Now, the first time my mother served eggplant was when we lived in the old Rhinacle Place out near the rifle range and west of Wonacott’s Dairy. Dad had plowed the area behind the house and created a garden for Mom. I know she grew lots of vegetables that year and in a sense that garden was her refuge and salvation. Zucchini, squash, tomatoes, eggplant. Eggplant. What a curiosity for a young girl. That mysterious and murkey color, the shape. The way it stood out to my eye compared to the rest.
Actually, it wasn’t bad. Mom had dredged it in flour and fried it in bacon grease just like chicken, cube steak, and liver. Salt and pepper. For a 3rd grader it was up there with green beans, broccoli, and brussles sprouts in the take it, hide it, or leave it category.
Liver. Never developed a liking to it. Over the years it became even more revolting to me. All I had to do was just imagine sitting down to a plate of it and my stomach would do back flips. It was the apex of martyrdom each time I would prepare liver and onions for my first husband. Oh what leverage I could reap from that. Those who like liver don’t get it in the same way that I don’t get it that anyone could eat that stuff. One time a liver loving family member thought she would experiment with this theory and she snuck chunks of it into what would have been a lovely shared family meal. Guess what.
So. Eggplant. Ever constant. A seductive presence in Gordon Headly’s produce section of Safeway. Fast forward. An Italian feast. Maybe my late 20s. And there, right there, Eggplant Parmagian. Synapses firing, a never consumated love rekindled in that moment. Each slice wrapped in its own, deep purple eloquence, whispering from beneath that marinara and mozzerella. Dredged in bread crumbs and egg, fried in Olive Oil.
Eggplant and tomatoes are members of the same family. First cousins. In Europe the tomato was once thought to be poisonous and eggplant was once known as “Mad Apple” all because of a superstitious belief that eggplant made you crazy. I guess I might have drawn the same conclusion knowing that eggplant is associated with the Deadly Nightshade family. Belladonna is of the Deadly Nightshade family. The English are responsible for the name Eggplant because the variety grown in that region was eggshaped. The original name is Abergine. That’s what the French call it, while the Italians refer to eggplant as Melanzana. We thank the Spanish for introducing tomatoes and eggplant to the Americas.
I love eggplant. It’s truly one of those acquired tastes that either comes on gradually or, as in my case, suddenly and thoroughly. There’s a bajillian ways to prepare and serve eggplant and I love them all. Rattatouille, Stuffed Eggplant (with ricotta filling), Eggplant Pizza (North End, Boston). Eggplant Chutney.
Liver. You love it or hate it. Never an acquired taste. It’s ugly and slithery. It comes from the family of organ meat. A bad neighborhood at best. No matter how you cook it, it’s still liver. You can alienate family members if you sneak it in a perfectly wholesome stew. Fool me once.
Eggplant. A romance of history, comes from a reputable family with a distinguished pedigree. Eggplant invites you to expand your culinary world. Even if you do not care for Eggplant, it is still such a pretty enhancement in your garden or in the bounty of market produce.
And so. Challenge your imagination and try this recipe for Eggplant Chutney. You just might fall in love!
1 Eggplant cut into 1″ cubes. Do NOT peel.
1/2 cup diced sundried tomatoes.
2 tsp kosher salt.
1TBS. Herbs Provence.
1 TBS cloves.
1 TBS mustard.
1 TSP mustard seed.
3 Cups Granulated Sugar.
1 3/4 Cups red wine.
1/4 Cup red wine vinegar.
Fire up your canner to a rolling boil.
Sterilize your 1/2 pint jars in the canner.
Put all your ingredients in a large stainless steel pot.
Bring it to a boil, stirring constantly.
Reduce the heat.
Boil gently uncovered about 25 minutes.
Remove hot jars from the canner and ladle chutney into them to within 1/2 inch of the top.
Seal with sterile lids and secure the rings.
Process in a boiling water bath for 10-15 minutes, depending on the elevation.
When the process is finished, turn off the heat and remove the lid from the canner.
Allow the jars to remain in the canner for an additional 5 minutes.
Lift jars out of the canner and transfer to a towel covered surface.
Allow jars to cool, undisturbed for 12-24 hours. Check the seals. The lids should curve down.
Serve with beef or lamb. OR, over warm brie.