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  • Miriam Green

An Eggplant, A Poem, A Car Ride


I always forget how much fun it is to be with my brother. That, coupled with my aunt also visiting, made for a high-energy day. In honor of my son’s upcoming wedding, my younger kids played hooky from school. We all got up early to drive to my parents for the day. We packed the car with all the things we needed—coats for the cool evening weather, umbrellas just in case (no, it didn’t rain), gifts for our family. Then I climbed into the back seat.

For me, the hardest part of the visit was sitting in the back seat of the car while my oldest son drove. It’s not that he’s not a good driver; it’s just that I can’t stomach the idea of something terrible happening while we’re on the road. Every slight turn of the wheel, every bump, made me cringe. And the music they chose to play was just unbearable. Lots of rap music with its loud hard beats. I focused on staying quiet and saying nothing. I was too nervous to read, so it helped that I played Candy Crush on my iphone (how low we have fallen).

Mom was absolutely overwhelmed by all the people in her apartment. Sometimes she couldn’t follow the many conversations going on at once. And she couldn’t quite remember who was who. Both my boys are tall (and handsome) fellows, and unlike her son, they don’t have grey hair. It was like we were playing a game: Will the real son please stand up.

Mom also had difficulty deciding what to wear. When we arrived, I realized the shirt she was wearing was on backwards and the label was bothering her neck. Mom changed out of that shirt and put on a different one and a sweater even though she told me she was hot. Then she put on a second sweater, and when we left the apartment, she put a coat on over that. The rest of us were wearing light sweaters. We reasoned that if she got too hot, she could take off a layer.

The thing about Mom is that she’s always happy to see us. “It’s been so long,” she says, or “I can’t remember the last time you were here.” It doesn’t matter if we visited yesterday, last week or a year ago, Mom is always delighted by our visits and happy to give and receive hugs and kisses. When we walked out to the city, we introduced my brother to one of the songs we often sing: “We’re a couple of swells,” with its refrain about walking up the avenue. “How do you know that song?” he asked me. How didn’t I, I thought. Mom sings it every time we’re together.

One of the day’s treats was going out to eat at our favorite restaurant, Myriam’s Grill. In Israel, many meat places offer a round of tasty fresh salads and pita bread as a first course. Sometimes, the salads are so good you don’t even need the main course. Pickled vegetables, eggplant in mayonnaise, fried eggplant, spicy carrots, matbucha (tomatoes and roasted bell peppers seasoned with garlic and chili pepper), humus, tehina, beets, green and black olives, pickles, marinated cucumbers, cucumbers and tomatoes, potato salad, and many others. Living in Israel has changed our palate and our cuisine. I was so excited when I figured out how easy it was to reproduce one of my favorites, a visually stunning dish that is just so tasty: roasted eggplant and tehina.

So, here’s a poem about my son learning to drive, and a recipe for roasted eggplant with tehina.

To a Son Driving Away

We let you drive

down to the Dead Sea

for the family picnic,

your learner’s permit

burning a hole in your back pocket.

With each curve

on the mountainous road,

my face fell

like the 400 meter descent

below sea level.

I kept waiting

for the crash

while you grew

bolder with every turn.

Then it was time

to let you go

alone. You took the keys

with such glee,

your burly body

filling the driver’s seat

as if you’d always sat there,

confidence like the

red tail lights

winking goodbye.

Roasted Eggplant and Tehina

Eggplant is served all the time and in so many ways in Israel. Fried, smoked, mashed, grilled, roasted and baked. It took me a while to warm to this vegetable, but now that I know the secret to roasting eggplants, I really enjoy making this dish. Unprocessed tehina is sold as a paste in plastic containers. It is quite easy to make into a dip or spread.

1 large eggplant or 5-6 small eggplants

Salt

¼ cup fresh parsley chopped

1 tsp date honey

1 tsp rosemary

Tehina:

½ cup unprocessed tehina

½ cup water

¼ cup olive oil

2 garlic cloves crushed

3 Tbsp lemon juice

Directions:

Cut each eggplant in half and score the fleshy inside in a cross-hatch. Cut as deeply as you can, then sprinkle with salt, letting them sit for at least half an hour. Squeeze each eggplant over the sink to remove moisture. Brush with olive oil and place on a baking sheet, cut side down, on a bed of sprinkled rosemary. Bake at 400° for half an hour or until eggplant is completely soft. Remove from oven and let sit on baking sheet until cool. Meanwhile, make tehina. The recipe above makes about a bowl-full. When eggplants are cool, turn cut side up on a serving dish, drizzle with tehina, date honey, and fresh parsley. Serve cold or room temperature.

Note: Large eggplants take longer than ½ an hour to roast in the oven.

#roastedeggplant #eggplant #tehina #sidedish #driving #toasondrivingaway #brother

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