Can a vegetable become an object of desire?
Yes, because aubergine and I established an idyllic relationship that began in the period of my childhood and has not yet ended.
From the first moment it was a succulent and experiential discovery that I wanted to continually renew the increase of taste in its gastronomic variety.
The play of colour
When I was little, like all children, I didn’t like vegetables: they made me smell and I complained every time some dish contained some vegetables.
Then, one day, my maternal grandmother proposed me a colourful game. Like all children I was attracted by the novelty of the game and above all to get my hands on things that usually I could not touch such as food, pots and pans.
So, happy and excited, I put on my grandmother’s mega apron and got on the stool to get to work.
She placed a large bowl full of very red tomatoes in front of me and she told me to dry them well because they had taken a bath. If they stayed wet they got cold and got sick.
Then appealing to the Red Cross nurse inside me, I began to carefully dry a small wet tomato. Meanwhile, she peeled, sliced and fried the aubergines, but I was too busy with my task to notice that.
As soon as I finished, my grandmother told me that the tomato I had now dried I had to mash.
“How to crush ??? But everything will get dirty, you washed it and I just dried it! ”
I protested, and my grandmother then explained to me that the tomatoes had bellies full of “ariddri” (seeds) and they would get sick if we didn’t let them out.
Besides, I didn’t have to tell anyone, because it was such a funny thing that my aunts would have been jealous that I had taken their place in this very delicate operation.
I nodded looking over my shoulder for my aunts, who loved me so much but had kept this job here for them.
In short, I enjoyed myself like few other times in my life.
I soiled not only my apron but also my hair, face and shoes.
“What would my mom have said ????”
So I learned how to make tomato sauce and since I had to check once if it was the right amount of salt, and if it was cooked, I discovered that the tomato sauce with fresh basil, the one just picked from the plant, I really liked.
It was sweet and harmonious on the palate, and at the same time delicate. I wanted to know everything, that is, how I could eat it as well as a sauce for spaghetti.
My grandmother made a gesture that is untranslatable, but which basically means “unnegghè” that is everywhere and with everything.
She placed in front of me a plate of a dish that seemed to me to be pasta, but she took some with a fork and said to me: “Close your eyes and taste well, let’s see if you discover the mysterious ingredient!”
And it was love at first taste.
You will never thank the Arabs enough when I happen to see them, it is thanks to them that in the distant 15th century they brought eggplants from India to Europe.
That bite that my grandmother made me taste as part of the game and the surprise, I liked it so much that it became my favourite dish.
That sweet taste of fresh sauce, combined with the strong and bitter taste of fried aubergines, interspersed with a generous sprinkling of Parmesan, and the heady scent of freshly picked basil, conquered me forever.
Eggplant of parmigiana, rather than eggplant parmigiana
Parmigiana does not come, as it would seem from Parma and Parmesan, but from the Sicilian word “palmigiana” that is Persian, for the window so to speak. Those wooden shutters made of many strips that overlap and that look like many slices of eggplant one on top of the other.
There are several versions, but I prefer it to simply cooked, that is, assembled the fried aubergines as soon as ready and “accutturato” (ristretto) less sauce. You can bake it with mozzarella, ham, egg, mushrooms … and so on and so forth.
Everyone can unleash their own culinary fantasy and be inspired by his creativity! But first taste it as I fell in love with it, in its sublime simplicity and with the love that my grandmother gave me.