battle 9–day um–er

So, here’s what happened to kohlrabi week: Admittedly, I went to the farmer’s market by myself again, and admittedly, I couldn’t find what I was looking for….again. In my defense, no one has ever even heard of kohlrabi and I’ve had three people helping me track it down on the Internet and in real life and we still haven’t found it or even really figured out what it is. Apparently, it is a vegetable, but that’s all we know.

In the meantime, I’m moving up beets…ugh…and am going to….gag… I can’t even finish that sentence, but, sigh, welcome to beet week.

I just picked up beets from the store and am still trying to figure out how to make them palatable (note: beet mousse, out; beet sangria, in), so until I work all that out, I’m pretending it’s still last week and am having some waxing philosophical time. This week’s topic: My new favorite blog, PROJECT 29 to 30. Meet Steph, new blogger extraordinaire. Steph is chronicling her challenge to do between her 29th birthday and her 30th birthday 365 things she’s never done before. I love this project.

Steph also has great hair.

Also, the one time I wrote and posted this from work, my boss walked in and saw me doing it. Hi, Scott. Remember all the reasons you love me before you fire me. Start with my hair.

battle 8–day 4–peas

Victory is mine! And Meat Pusher Elwood’s.

Despite the horrendous rain and floods, and the fact that I skipped one whole night because I was unprepared, pea week wasn’t all that bad. I was counting on winning it. Except I hadn’t yet eaten peas. Plain ole, run of the mill peas. You know, like when someone says to you, hey friend, do you like peas? What kind of peas do you think of? Do you say back, well my friend, do you mean sugar snap peas or snow peas or garden peas or sweet peas or snap peas or field peas or black-eyed peas or split peas or chick peas? No, you don’t ask that, you just assume they’re asking about plain ole green peas, and then you say, ferfucksake no, peas, gross.

That’s what I would say anyway. (And BFF Lauren  isn’t allowed to answer that totally rhetorical question because she probably would clarify.)

Given that gag response, it was my responsibility to myself and the project to confront plain ole peas head on, right?

Enter Meat Pusher Elwood, stage left.

When I first started this project my grandfather chastised me because he was so horrified that I would consider giving up my meat and potatoes heritage for vegetables, for shame. I assured him that I wasn’t becoming a vegetarian, that I am just broadening my horizons to include more sides with my meat, but as the weeks drag on I’ve noticed my nights are made up of more and more meatless meals. Elwood has recently resurrected my grandfather’s campaign, but more kindly, consistently pointing out how frequently I’m failing to include meat with my veggies. I have to admit I totally agree that this is a huge failure on my part, so when he suggested having a little pig with my peas, I thought, of course, yes, absolutely, yes, yes, yes.

This is the bacon peas recipe Elwood sent me:

  • 4 slices bacon, diced
  • 2 cups peas, cooked
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
  2. In a frying pan at moderate heat, brown bacon.
  3. Add the peas, cream, salt, and pepper and stir.
  4. Pour peas mixture into a buttered baking dish, cover with bread crumbs, and bake 15 to 20 minutes or until brown.

The recipe seemed easy enough, and I actually tried to follow it pretty closely, except David still wasn’t home so I was cooking by myself, and cooking by myself is when shit goes wrong. And the kinds of questions I need answered to keep shit from going wrong are the kinds that recipes skip right over (because they assume I already know how to cook…well, screw you, recipes) and the interweb isn’t sure about.

For instance, when a recipe says “4 slices of bacon, diced,” and then later it says, “In a frying pan at moderate heat, brown bacon,” does that mean I dice the bacon before I brown it because the “4 slices of bacon, diced” was written in the recipe before the “In a frying pan at moderate heat, brown bacon” part? Or does the placement really matter because that was just the ingredient list? And should I really only pay attention to what’s in the direction list? If that’s the case, they should have told me to dice it somewhere in the directions, and they should have told me when to do it, like, before or after I browned it. I’m just saying, for people who don’t know how to cook, this could be an important distinction. Like, I don’t have any idea if it makes a difference, but what if it makes or breaks a meal? Maybe it does. I don’t know. Grrrr, recipes.


I decided to cut up the bacon before browning it. I based this decision on my previous bacon makin’ experiences, which have mostly all been disasters. I thought maybe if it was cut up in smaller pieces I could try cooking it hotter and faster. I feel good about this decision. So, bacon diced and browned. Next.

I used frozen garden peas, which I thought was about as basic a plain ole pea as I could get without going canned. And that’s when I encountered another seemingly simple recipe instruction that totally stumped me for, like, a minute. What do they mean when they tell me to cook the peas? Because  Lauren and I thought maybe frozen peas are kind of already cooked and then flash frozen, although neither of us was sure about this and we had the conversation in the car and Google wasn’t nearby and …OK, here we go…Google says frozen peas are blanched and then frozen at the peak of ripeness. I have absolutely no idea what that means.  Jesus, peas. I hate you right now. OK, fine. Grrr. Merriam Webster says blanching means scalding or parboiling in water. That doesn’t really clear things up for me, but I’m done looking shit up right now, we’re moving on. So, I was asking myself, aren’t my frozen peas kind of already cooked? Do I need to do anything else with them? I was a little leery of tossing frozen-peas-I-wasn’t-sure-were-cooked into my dinner, especially since the frozen peas had instructions for further cooking on the package, so I decided to “cook” them. I did some more thinking about this and decided that when the recipe said “cooked,” they meant something along the lines of the oh-so-basic-stovetop-steam. I hoped they didn’t mean baking them, frying them, sautéing them, or for fuck’s sake, blanching them.

Alright, so peas “cooked.” Check. Bacon browned. Check. Add peas, cream, salt, pepper to bacon, and stir. Check. Add to baking dish and sprinkle on bread crumbs. Check, check.

neapolitan bacon peas

After Elwood had given me this awesome recipe—which even after all this deliberating had come together quite nicely—Nascar Patterson came in from out of nowhere and reminded me, quite rightly, not to forget the cheese. Patterson, good one.

bacon peas mmmm

I stood over my bacon peas and stared at my three best melty cheeses, trying to decide which one to use: mozzarella, yellow cheddar or white cheddar. Obviously I used all three. Neapolitan bacon peas. Holy excellent. Holy, holy, for the love of all holy meat, holy excellent.

Plain ole peas, in.


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battle 8–day 3–peas

After the PB&J incident, I was determined to refocus my energies on sugar snap peas, except I was still being kind of a baby about driving in the floods (I mean, it’s not like it was just regular rain, people died, come on, I get to be a baby about driving in that, right?) and then, and then, I was reminded of this combination of joys by my favorite news source, the Associated Press: “Days of downpours and thunderstorms saturated the ground from Alabama through Georgia into eastern Tennessee and western North Carolina, just months after an epic two-year drought in the region ended after winter rains.”

It’s not like I didn’t remember the drought, I did. And it’s not like I didn’t know we had just had days and days of rain, I did. But come on AP, did the drought have to be so epic? And was it absolutely necessary to point out in the same breath that the grounds are now saturated? Because this is what happens when rains saturate grounds after epic droughts in Georgia: trees fucking fall. I don’t mean branches break or the tops snap off; I mean whole motherfucking trees uproot and fall the fuck over.

And this displeases me. To an excessive degree.

So Tuesday when I began to imagine myself dodging falling pines and washing away in muddy flood-y bits, I decided, eh, maybe I’ll skip the extra driving and just make do with what I’ve got at home. I’ve got peas, Google and the will to live; I can definitely make dinner out of that.

At this point, I was no longer married to the sugar snap peas. I would eat whatever peas the Internet told me to. Plus, I wasn’t sure which ones the sugar snaps were. When I bought them at the farmer’s market I told myself, don’t forget, the sugar snaps look like this and snow peas look like this, but of course I forgot immediately. So Google and I sorted out which ones were which (snow peas are kind of flat and have tiny little peas in them, sugar snaps are fatter and look more like green beans to me), and then we talked about which of my peas would go best with what food I already had in the house. The amazing thing about this is that these days I actually do keep some food in the house…fresh food. And get this: David is out of town. David is out of town and I have food in the house and I’m feeding myself. I don’t know if the world has turned upside down or if I have a brain tumor, but the times, they are a changin’.

sugar snap peas

(No comment on the fact that I could have done this Monday night after I gave up on beige and pea casserole.) (OK, comment: I still don’t yet have the mindset of, it’s dinner time and this is what we have, let’s cook it, because I still can’t cook and I don’t have a full memory bank of vegetable items I can cook because I don’t like them. I mean, I like some now, but this is a slow process. I still need Google…and the will to live.) (Plus, I make a seriously good PB&J.)

The snow pea recipes all looked too complicated and required more ingredients than I had, and the frozen pea recipes were all too fancy for my mood, but the sugar snap pea recipes were Goldilocks right. Most interweb people, including my favorite people on Facebook, suggested dipping them in ranch and eating them raw, which I almost did, but then Google gave me a super easy looking pea and mushroom idea, and I figured in the spirit of the project—learning to cook and continuing to eat vegetables I’ve added to my diet—I might as well try that. Plus, I actually had mushrooms and I was just a little bit beside myself about that.

  • 3/4 lb. sugar snap peas
  • 1/2 lb. mushrooms
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 1 tbsp. oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 lemon
  • String the peas. Cook them in boiling, salted water until tender, about 5 minutes, and drain. Slice the mushrooms. Heat the butter and oil in a large frying pan over medium high heat. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until they’re soft and the liquid has evaporated, 10 to 12 minutes. Add peas, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and heat through, 2 or 3 minutes. Squeeze 2 teaspoons juice from the lemon. Add the juice right before serving.

I actually think I did most of this right. I didn’t pay attention to any of the ingredient amounts, I just used what I had and tossed in what-looked-like-enough butter and oil. Then I might have slightly overcooked the mushrooms. But otherwise, given my skills—like the fact that I think I might have been sautéing but I’m not sure because I don’t really know what sautéing is, which is probably best because I might have been intimidated by that dumb word and really fucked up the mushrooms, and yet I might have done it right anyway even though I had no idea what I was doing—this one turned out pretty tasty. If I didn’t have so many other kinds of peas to get through I would consider pea week won.

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battle 8–day 2, kind of–peas

Night two of pea week fizzled out before it even started. As usual I didn’t plan my week very well, so even though I had tons of peas, I didn’t really have the other ingredients I needed to make the peas any more exciting than the basic stovetop version I’m used to. This is actually how I usually do it and it’s usually fine. Usually. I have an idea early in the week what I might eat, but I don’t make any real decisions until the day of, and I just pick up what I need on my way home from work or after I’ve let Maggie out. Usually this is perfectly fine. Usually. Until Monday. Monday we were on Day One Million of the heaviest rains the Atlanta metro area has seen since the. . .last time we had heavy rains. Of course, it was great at first since we’re just coming off the Great Drought of 2008, at which time our governor stood on the capitol steps and prayed for rain. You read that right. Well, you got it Sonny boy. The rains came. And came and came. And then the floods came. I was more or less oblivious to the flooding situation until people started dying. Then shit was real, yo.

I was driving home, the whole three miles from my office to my house, in the downpour on sugar snap pea night when I suddenly found myself in all these treacherous flood-y bits where I thought I might get swept away, never to be heard from again, and just like that, I would never have to eat sugar snap peas (which wouldn’t have hurt my feelings all that much, because I have been oh so unexcited about pea week…peas…gross). I managed to make it home to let Maggie out, but I had no interest in braving the dangers of the flooded roads again to get what I needed for dinner that night. I was stumped. I called Lauren.

Me: Lauren, what should I do for dinner tonight?
Lauren: Pot pie.

So, you remember yesterday when I said I only know of one way to prepare peas? That was a little bitty white lie. I may know of one other way, but I hate it so much I try to ignore its existence. Lauren, on the other hand, has witnessed so many incidents of me having OCD fits over this other way of pea preparation that I know I would never get out of including it here.

Peas in pot pie.

So, OK, fine, I have super hard feelings toward peas being included in pot pies. Here’s what I say, I say, why ruin a perfectly good chicken and gravy and pastry pie with vegetables? Terrible. So I make them better—improve them drastically—by flick, flick, flicking all the vegetables (not just peas, but certainly most definitely the peas) out of pot pies before chowing down. It’s an arduous, time-consuming, anxiety-ridden process, but it’s worth it.

Still, Lauren and I determined real pot pie was too much work and that I could just put peas in a chicken casserole and that would suffice (clearly I wouldn’t put any other pot pie veggies in there, they’re still awful…celery, UGH). “Beige and pea casserole,” she said. Perfect.

Except for the part where I still didn’t have any ingredients to make anything. I might should have mentioned that to her first. Peanutbutter and jelly it is.

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battle 8–day 1–peas

So, pea week was originally supposed to be “peas, sugar, snap,” but of course I had no idea there is actually just one whole kind of pea called sugar snap and another whole kind called just snap. I think I have some other peas further down on the list, but after a long conversation about the virtues of all the variations of peas with some people who care a lot less about this than I do but who humor me because I’m weird and pushy, I determined to try to do this week all the peas I could find. So, I’ve got sugar snap peas, snow peas, frozen garden peas and frozen sweet peas. I couldn’t find snap peas, despite the Internet telling me they’re real, and I didn’t buy canned. Everyone I talked to was incredibly vehement about not buying canned peas: “Whatever you do, don’t get canned peas.” It made me wonder if canned peas are poisonous or so lacking in nutritional value that they are actually detrimental to your health. And then of course I thought about my poor parents, who fed me canned peas my entire childhood (I didn’t even know frozen peas existed until last year, and even then I only used them as ice packs), which is probably why I hate peas so much, because somewhere deep down I must have known the dangers, and then I immediately feared for my parents’ lives and thought I should warn them of the biohazards in their pantry. Mom, Dad: Canned peas will kill you.

Since I haven’t had much history with most of the vegetables in this project, my usual lack of ideas is born of a real lack of knowledge, but since I “ate” canned peas (i.e., pushed them around on my plate for hours until I had negotiated my mom down to a mere bite or two that I would gag on and swallow dramatically before she finally let me leave the table) that were always prepared on the stovetop in the same tiny saucepan at least once a week as a kid, my lack of pea ideas is born of tunnel vision: I didn’t know there was any other way to prepare them.

I got my first chance to expand my pea brain Sunday night when I got the coolest invitation to a party at Seth and Amy’s house for the Jewish new year. I’m pretty sure Seth and Amy think I’m a total nutball for not eating vegetables and fall into the category of thinking I should be studied as a NASA science experiment for my ability to survive in this state. Seth kindly asked what my vegetable for the week was, at which point I excitedly offered to bring a pea side. He warmly accepted, but I could hear him hoping he already had enough food otherwise. He knows I can’t cook.

Fortunately for Seth and his guests, and me, I didn’t intend to cook. Brilliant Supporter Erica C., who also grew up not eating veggies but has since discovered that most vegetables can be tolerated with enough cheese or animal fat, had that day given me her recipe for a salad with peas in it. A salad wouldn’t normally pass muster for an entire dinner for me, but it was perfect for a party. All I had to do was go to the farmer’s market and pick up the stuff to go in it. That’s all I had to do. That’s it.

Do you get the feeling this whole project will eventually turn into my adventures and missteps at the grocery store rather than how I’m actually learning to cook and eat vegetables? Me, too. I’ll refocus. But in the meantime, wanna know what I couldn’t find this time? The lettuce. I promise I’ll just take a fucking chaperone next time. I promise.

At home I put together Erica’s super awesome salad, which is easy and can be modified any number of ways:

  • Greens (I used mixed field greens)
  • Frozen peas (I used frozen sweet peas, and apparently you don’t have to do anything to them, just let them thaw and toss them in, I’m really glad I asked about this because I was about to put those fuckers on the stove and we might have have a hot pea salad…yum)
  • Mushrooms
  • Cucumbers
  • Carrots (Obviously I didn’t use carrots)
  • Raisins (Erica said you can use any color, I used golden)
  • Cheese (Erica said you can use any kind, she’s been using feta lately, I used goat cheese because I couldn’t find feta and I’m just feeling the love for goat cheese right now)
  • Crunchy bits (Erica said to use croutons or chow mein noodles, neither of which I could find at YDFM, so I used unsalted sesame sticks, they were great)
  • Dressing (Erica said two different dressings but all I heard was balsamic vinaigrette, so I got that, because that’s my favorite, when I got to Seth and Amy’s they had a homemade balsamic vinaigrette and it was super)

sweet peas

The salad was lovely. I liked it, I ate it, I would eat it again. I couldn’t taste the peas. Randy, who was also at Seth and Amy’s, said in his most naysayer-like voice, uh yeah, you can’t taste them in salads. I wasn’t sure what to do with that information, so I just shot fire out my eyes at him for being a naysayer while I considered the point of putting peas on a salad if you can’t taste it. I’m pretty sure the point is to taste my food, but I keep running into all these veggies that are either tasteless or prepared in a way that masks their taste. What’s the point of that?

So, the salad was great, but I’m not sure why it has peas on it. Up next, sugar snaps.

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battle 7–day 1–arugula

When I was planning this project, I nearly skipped right over leaf vegetables because, like cucumbers, they almost don’t even seem real to me, and apparently the rest of the world agrees because every time I mention that this is arugula week people give me weird looks and say, what are you going to do with that? (First of all, why are you asking such a dumbshit question, you know I have no idea what I’m doing, and second of all, why don’t you tell me what to do with it, that’s the whole fucking point of this project….) But as I was deliberating what to include on the list and what to toss, I decided I might as well do lettuce (is arugula lettuce? Or is lettuce its own thing? I should look that up, but I don’t care), because I habitually remove it from sandwiches and avoid foods where it’s a main feature, like salads. So on the list leafy greens went. And here we are at arugula week. And OK, fine, I looked it up, arugula is not lettuce.

I had the best plan for my first battle with arugula: a sandwich. Since I’m so picky about greens on sandwiches, I thought the best way to tackle arugula was to find a sandwich that agreed with both arugula and me. The prospect of this kind of excited me, because I really look forward to the day when I can order a BLT and not have to say, “Without lettuce,” and my server says, “Well then isn’t that just a BT?” Every. Time. Even though we know now arugula isn’t lettuce, I still think tackling arugula will lead to good things for me and the BLT.

Bacon. Mmmmmmmmmm.

So, I was at the grocery store buying all the parts for what was sure to be the best arugula sandwich ever, when I ran into my first hurdle, OK, my only hurdle, but it was kind of big. I couldn’t find one ingredient for that damn sandwich, not one, not one. I couldn’t find arugula. I panicked. Feeling like a complete asshole for even thinking of abandoning a sandwich because I couldn’t find what I was looking for at Publix (abandoning mushroom risotto because I was bewildered by the farmer’s market is one thing, giving up on a sandwich at a brightly lit and well-marked supermarket is another entirely, embarrassing), I took a few deep breaths and called Melissa to help me find my way around. She had given me the idea for the awesome sandwich in the first place and had deftly directed me to the pizza dough last time I was lost in the grocery store, so she was doubly the right person for the job.


Item 1: Goat Cheese

We searched way longer than we should have for this basic cheese. You would think it would be up front in the “cheeses of the world,” section, but I couldn’t find it there, so I went back to the fake cheese area where they have American cheese, cottage cheese, cream cheese, etc. The good stuff. Obviously it wasn’t there. You were right the first time when you thought it was in the cheeses of the world section, you just weren’t looking in the right place. Melissa sent me back up there and told me exactly where to find it, and of course it was exactly where she said it would be. Goat cheese, check. Also, port wine, brie and gouda. Check.

Item 2: Baguette

Obviously I’ve bought bread before, it’s beige. No real problems here, except that I always hem and haw at the last minute over what kind of bread to buy, do I really want baguette? Maybe I want Italian or Cuban, or maybe I want sour dough. But Melissa said baguette and sent me directly to the bakery, so baguette I got.

Item 3: Fig Jam

Things threatened to break down around the fig jam. Publix used to have a natural foods aisle, but the one I go to has mainstreamed their organic products with their traditional products, so now the good jams are mixed together with Smuckers, leaving a mystifying array of brightly labeled preserves to choose from. This is my least favorite thing about grocery shopping. The colors. Dial it back, big agribusiness.

If Publix had fig jam, I didn’t see it. I wasn’t on the phone with Melissa anymore because we figured once I found the cheese and bread and made my way to the jam section, I should be golden; arugula would obviously be in produce, and that’s all that was on the magical sandwich. But here I stood in front of a thousand different types of preserves, utterly stuck. No fig jam. So what’s a good substitute for fig? Have I ever had a fig? I’ve had a Fig Newton. Then I remembered being force fed a fig a few weeks ago (my friends hate me) and thinking maybe figs aren’t really for me, so if maybe figs aren’t my thing was it so bad that I couldn’t find fig jam? I got some chunky strawberry from a farm I’ve never heard of with a plain white label, my favorite. Things were looking up again.

Item 4: Arugula

I headed back over to produce for the last and most important ingredient, this week’s veg, arugula. I scanned the entire section before I realized I wasn’t sure what I was looking for. Is arugula that purple leaf? Or is it that big kind of fluffy one? Or it is smaller, more like an herb? Do they even sell arugula by itself or only mixed? I had my face right up in all the lettuces and greens, breathing on someone else’s future salad, reading what’s what and not finding shit about arugula, when the produce guy came by to restock. Thank god for the produce guy. I asked if he had arugula, like it was the most normal thing in the world, not like, what the fuck does this stupid shit vegetable look like and why can’t I find it?? And I just hoped it wasn’t right behind me. Instead, he reached behind him and pulled a fresh bag out of his magic arugula box. I wanted to give him a high five, but I just thanked him kindly and silently celebrated finding all the ingredients for my sandwich. Way to go, team.

arugula sammie sam

At home, my magic arugula sandwich only took a few minutes to assemble and it was just the kind of sandwich I love: fresh, pretty and simple. And it was great. I thought about it for a while and decided the arugula actually added something to it, rather than being neutral or detracting from it, which is what I thought would happen. I can’t really put my finger on it, but I liked it, which I think bodes well for my future with the BLT.

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battle 6–day 4–eggplant

After my extraordinary success with eggplant last Friday, I was technically done with eggplant, but I had been promising myself all week that if all else failed I could fry it up right Saturday night, and even though all else didn’t fail…I kind of missed my deep fryer (oh Fry Daddy, you sexy beast, you), so we invited Naysayer Tom and Super Smart Supporter Melissa B. over and had ourselves another fried food night.

Fried food night is always a bit scattershot (I think having had two fried food nights that were both scattershot makes it pattern, thus “always”). Saturday night’s menu included pan-fried chicken tenders for buffalo chicken tacos, beer battered deep-fried zucchini (yum yum yum—my favorite), and beer battered deep-fried eggplant.

I think I did everything I was supposed to with the eggplant. I peeled it, salted it, sliced it crossways, let it sit for a while (I don’t know how long, a while), cut it up into French fry-looking things, dunked those in my beer batter, and tossed them in the fryer (oh, my sweet, sweet fryer). I likewise cut up, battered and tossed in the zucchini. The result of this process was a plate of fried fritter goodness—the eggplant recognizable only by their long strips and the zucchini by their silver dollar-sized rounds—that tasted exactly the same. I wasn’t sure if it was me, so I passed the plate around and everyone else confirmed, yep, exactly the same. Delicious beer battered fried goodness. So all this time I’ve been love, love, loving zucchini I was actually in love with beer batter. It’s possible some of you pointed this out in your comments, but I might have been in a fried food coma and neglected to notice this. Or care.


So today I went to lunch at Zucca, an Italian-pizza-restaurant-bar-type-place (they’re confused), on the Decatur square (my favorite place in the world). I’ve found myself actually reading menus these days, searching for new items I can all of a sudden eat because I’ve added all these new foods to my diet, and as I searched today, it was like a whole new world had opened to me and today was my lucky fucking day, because guess what they had on the menu at Zucca…a fried zucchini and eggplant appetizer. Seriously. I’m not even joking. I wouldn’t joke about that. So I thought, maybe I’m hungrier than that, maybe I want an app and a slice of the day, so I said, Hey Ms. Server Lady, what’s your slice of the day?, and she was like, Hey weirdly wild-eyed lady at my table, today’s slice of the day is a white pie with red peppers, zucchini and eggplant. Now, I bet you’re all thinking the same thing I was thinking… that’s right, today would be a great day for a new pair of shoes. So, I ordered the zucchini and eggplant app and the slice of the day, and I ate it all. Their fried food wasn’t as good as mine because it wasn’t battered in beer, but it was still pretty good and…they still both tasted exactly the same. But the pizza—on which were three of my new vegetables, none of which were fried—was great.

Red peppers, still in. Zucchini, still in. Eggplant, still in.

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battle 6–day 3–eggplant

Eggplant, take three. If I wasn’t the winning kind, eggplant might have beaten me. Fortunately for me, I’m the winning kind. I win shit.

After two neither successful nor unsuccessful attempts to take down eggplant—with mousaka on Tuesday and eggplant parm on Wednesday—I was back at it last night with not one, not two, but three different eggplant dishes.

melandy eggplant

Dish 1: Baba Ghanoush

I’ve heard of baba ghanoush before, but I think I thought it was a character in a Disney movie. Apparently it’s food. It was described to me as similar to hummus but made with smoked eggplant instead of tahini. I don’t know what tahini is, so that didn’t mean much to me, but I tried it and it was fine. I love hummus, I have a serious addiction to hummus, so I’m not sure I would choose baba ghanoush over hummus ever (I definitely wouldn’t, no way), but it was fine.

As a neither-here-nor-there side note, I only started liking hummus about a year ago….around the time I started liking tomatoes actually (huh…note to self: look into whether I was struck by lightning or abducted by aliens a year ago), but before that I was rabidly anti-hummus. I don’t know why I had such a hate on for hummus, it just seemed like a good thing to do, mostly because it’s made of peas. Chick peas. And I found chick peas really offensive. Garbanzo beans, too. Either way. Super offensive. This really perplexed Lauren, who loves hummus (and rightly so, really, because it’s fucking awesome), and she gave me the hardest time about it, forever, for years. And I was like, Lauren, come on, it’s made from chick peas. I should also note that I’d never actually eaten a chick pea in my life, but I was totally positive I wouldn’t like them. Chick. Peas. Dis-goddamn-gusting. So Lauren made me a bumper sticker that said, “Honk if you love chick peas!,” which I then drew a big red circle around with an X over it and hung it on my wall at work lest anyone be confused about how I felt about chick peas. Chick peas. Gross. Then one day a year or so ago I woke up and someone offered me some hummus and the aliens in my body decided the right thing to do was eat it and like it and I’ve been eating it, oh, almost every day since.

Hummus, in. Baba ghanoush…in, if hummus isn’t available. But why wouldn’t hummus be available? Seriously. What are you doing with my hummus? Give it back to me, give it…

Dishes 2 and 3: Eggplant Manicotti, Grilled Eggplant

So naysayers were all over Facebook, the blog and e-mail this week, talking about how bitter and awful eggplant is, how hard it is to cook with, how it’s everyone’s least favorite, etc, etc, etc. Some friends did offer some really yummy sounding recipes with lots of fried, cheesy goodness to mask eggplant’s taste, but these A) seemed defeat the purpose of tasting and enjoying the vegetable and B) were way too hard to cook. However, one recipe popped up that sounded both cheesy and easy to cook–eggplant manicotti. Yes, I’ll take it.

salting eggplant

It turns out cooking with eggplant is not that difficult, it just takes some time. Time, of course, is the one thing I don’t care to spare when I’m cooking (hot and fast, hot and fast), so eggplant may not be the best vegetable for me to cook, but that doesn’t mean I can’t still eat it and like it. We sliced and salted the eggplant and then let it sit for a while before working with it; this cuts down on the bitter taste everyone yammered on about all week. Hours and hours and hours later (or a few minutes), when the salt had worked its magic, we decorated some eggplant for the grill (with balsamic vinegar? Oil? Some green herb-ish stuff for sure…we should have talked about what all was happening over there, but I was busy with cheese for the manicotti, and frankly, it was cheese, so…..), and I rolled ricotta cheese into long strips of eggplant, which we then baked with sauce and more cheese.



Once all the eggplant was grilled and baked and on the table we chowed down. Eggplant manicotti…not altogether super totally different from regular manicotti. I wouldn’t go so far as to try to trick you into believing it’s the same, like a vegetarian would, but neither would I turn my nose up at it. But the grilled eggplant interested me most because I felt like it was my best opportunity this week to actually taste it, get a feel for the texture, understand what it is that people are talking about when they say they love it or hate it, and I liked it. I didn’t love it or hate it, but I liked it well enough to win it. Fucking finally, yo.

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battle 6–day 2–eggplant

Eggplant, take two.

I took another stab at eggplant last night with eggplant parmesan at our favorite Italian restaurant, Bambinelli’s. It’s a family-owned place with tacky décor and a gross number of photos of the Bambinellis and their kids and famous Italians and the Sopranos, which gives me the impression they take being Italian seriously, so I felt good entrusting them with contributing this fundamental Italian dish to the project. But just in case, I ordered another combo meal of sausage, chicken and eggplant parmesan with shells and cheese. It was an absurd, excessive amount of food, but after the portabella burger debacle, I can’t take any chances. I don’t want to go hungry.


While we were waiting for the food to arrive Naysayer Jon warned me that eggplant is another one of those vegetables that vegetarians like to trick you into believing tastes like meat, but really, it tastes like eggplant. Then I started to worry. Because of the portabella burger debacle. I had at least covered my bases so I wouldn’t starve, but I still have to win, and disliking a vegetable or not being able to add it to my diet permanently means I don’t win. I fretted.

Miss Server Lady brought out my combo meal (which they call the DaVinci Code or some shit) and I poked around my plate again, trying to identify what was what. (I swear, I did actually eat before this project, but the food really was all beige…and I am a seriously good beige food connoisseur.) Once I had established what I was pretty sure was eggplant, I closed my eyes, held my nose, and…

So is it just me or does eggplant have no taste? Or texture. Or anything. I couldn’t really say for sure that the blob on my plate covered in sauce and cheese was anything more than a vehicle for sauce and cheese.

I’m really torn on how to call it. Is this just what you do with eggplant? Cover it, stuff it, fry it until you can’t taste it? I mean, I didn’t vomit on myself so I would call that a relative success, but I still don’t think I would ever say, oh yeah, eggplant, mmmmm, my favorite! I’m not calling it yet. I won’t be home tomorrow night so I’ll try again Friday with grilled home-growns. Friday, take three. And Saturday I’m frying them bitches.

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battle 6–day 1–eggplant

Here’s the sum total of what I know about eggplant: it’s purple. I learned that when I first started this project and did a Google image search of all the veggies I might have to eat. The only other thing I know (and this is really more of an opinion than actual knowledge) is that it has a weird fucking name. Egg. Plant. What about it exactly is so egg-y? I had a little conversation with Wikipedia about this, but he/she didn’t really know why it’s called that. But then, THEN, Wikipedia told me this, and I’m going to semi-quote Wikipedia on this because Wikipedia is such a reliable source: The eggplant is a plant that bears a fruit of the same name, which is commonly used as a vegetable in cooking. WTF, Wikipedia?

Considering eggplant’s indecision about whether it wants to be a fruit or a vegetable reminded me that Supporter Elwood told me a while ago that the difference between fruits and vegetables is totally murky. Here’s what I learned from another little chat with Wikipedia:

  • The term fruit has different meanings depending on context, and the term is not synonymous in food preparation and biology. Fruits are the means by which flowering plants disseminate seeds, and the presence of seeds indicates that a structure is most likely a fruit, though not all seeds come from fruits. (I love how the people who write on Wikipedia vary from writing in a pedantic-like language that resembles Old English to completely disregarding punctuation. Get it together, Wikipedia.)
  • A vegetable is an edible plant or part of a plant other than a sweet fruit or seed. However, the word is not scientific, and its meaning is largely based on culinary and cultural tradition. Therefore, the application of the word is somewhat arbitrary and subjective. For example, some people consider mushrooms to be vegetables, while others consider them a separate food category. (Like what other food category, Wikipedia?)

fruit or veg

Wikipedia also says legumes, including peas and beans, are fruit, so I’m seriously considering whether that means I can cut out bean week (holy please!!). Ooh, beets are fruit, too! Wikipedia is my new best friend. Wait, beets are also vegetables. Wikipedia and I just broke up.

Regardless of whether eggplant is a fruit or a vegetable, it’s still on the list for this week and there’s nothing I can do about it now but eat it. My plans for eggplant week include eggplant parmesan at our favorite Italian restaurant; grilled eggplant with friends; and fried eggplant, which My New Favorite Person Mindy told me was the best way to eat eggplant, and you know I can’t resist the deep fryer, so that’s going right to the top of the list. Friends are also now suggesting on e-mail some other complicated sounding recipes, but I think they all forgot I don’t know how to cook.

I officially started eggplant week yesterday because we went out of town for the holiday weekend and only got back late Monday night; then I didn’t have time, energy or inclination to shop for groceries after a big party weekend, so eggplant week also started with dinner out. David gets all the credit for dinner last night because I’m so super dead serious when I say the only thing I know about eggplant is that it’s purple (and I might not even be 100 percent right about that, according to my fair-weather friend, Wikipedia). I have no idea what dishes people make with it, where to go to find it on a menu, if it’s a main or a side, nothing. No idea. So David had his most genius moment of the whole project and suggested that we go for Greek so I could have mousaka, which is apparently a staple on Greek menus and one of the main things in the world that has eggplant in it. Of course I’ve never heard of it.

We checked the menu for Athens Pizza House and found the perfect meal for me: a mousaka and pastitsio combo meal. I still had no idea what either of these dishes looked like, but the description of them—layers of eggplant, potatoes and ground beef with a creamy béchamel sauce and hollow pasta mixed with ground beef and topped with a creamy béchamel sauce—guaranteed that I would be able to try this week’s veg but still have a meat-and-potatoes out in case the eggplant made me vomit on myself.

So Mister Server Guy brought out my combo meal and both the mousaka and the pastitsio looked exactly the same. A cursory visit to Google images this morning confirmed that’s not totally out of the ordinary, but I’m not altogether certain the kitchen didn’t give me two pieces of mousaka or two pieces of pastitsio. Also, I don’t know what Athens Pizza House thinks “creamy” means, but there was nothing creamy about the two blobs of gelatin-like casserole-ish beige foods on my plate. On the up side, they were beige, and we know how I feel about beige food. I poked around looking for the eggplant, and David said, it’s right there, and pointed to nothing. I said, where? And he said, there! And pointed to nothing again. So, I just ate them both without having any idea which one supposedly had eggplant in it. They tasted like beige food.

my mousaka didn't look anything like this

So because I don’t even know if I ate eggplant last night, much less whether I liked or disliked it, I think it doesn’t count. I’m calling this one a total foul, off sides, out of bounds, violation of Geneva Conventions Article 9002. Tonight, take two.

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