Friday, April 21, 2006

Just say no-bergine

I feel two food-related posts in a row is not good form, but hey, I like my food.

Unless my food is an aubergine. Aubergines were put on this earth to give us a foretaste of the foetid pustules of hell. I would rather eat my own toe cheese. I forgot this for a while, but fortunately my senses have returned.

I was never a fan as a child: aubergines were new to Britain in the 1970s, and, a bit like avocados, nobody quite knew what to do with them. Slimy, sludgy, bitter, nasty things they were, and as a teenage vegetarian in the mid 80s I had more than my share (more than *anyone's* share) of stuffed aubergines: the standard fall-back dish for the token veggie over for lunch / dinner / whatever. Nobody else was eating it, so nobody except me knew what a job it was keeping it down.

But the real killer aubergine experience came when I was 18, and working in a kibbutz kitchen during my year off. Most people didn't eat in the communal dining room but even so, the kitchens catered for 500+ people for breakfast and dinner. My favourite job was making the coleslaw: three crates of cabbages and a crate of carrots every day, shredded in a processor bigger than me. We mixed the dressing in a bucket.

The pans were basically vats: waist height stainless steel monsters which were emptied into huge plastic tubs by turning a big wheel. And one day, my job involved one of those vats full of steaming hot aubergines.

I was already steaming hot. We wore T-shirts, shorts and wellingtons in the kitchens, which were constantly washed down with jet-hoses. We used to wash ourselves down as well, because it must have been 45 degrees in there. There was a lot of sweat in the coleslaw that summer, put it that way.

And I really didn't want to deal with the aubergines, but I really didn't have a say in the matter. A group of three or four of us was assigned to squeeze the pulp out of the aubergines into a big steel bucket so they could turn it into baba ghanoush, that famous Middle Eastern delicacy that I had spent the previous month assiduously avoiding.

So you pick up a red hot aubergine, and you squeeze it like a big purple zit. PLOP! goes the stinky flesh and you chuck the skin away and repeat, pausing only to wipe the sweat from your brow and wonder what the hell you are doing here, you don't belong here.

Five or ten minutes in, and it feels like years. Then one of your comrades holds up the millionth aubergine, points it at you and smiles lazily. Don't you fucking dare, you think, but it's too late, he's squeezed it and your top half is splattered with steaming aubergine flesh. You fire one straight back and before you know it it's in your eyes, your hair, the back of your throat because he caught you laughing.

The stink hung around for days. The memory of it hung around for years. "I don't eat meat. Or aubergines. Or peas. But pea aubergines are fine" was my dietary line for aaages.

The damn things were briefly rehabilitated in the hands of a) M, who does a lovely fluffy Indian aubergine dish, and b) the Rice Box down the road, who do something amazing with them involving chilli, garlic salt and pepper. I was beginning to feel it had all been a phase.

But then I started accepting that they might be a normal part of daily life, and that really was a mistake. Last Thursday, I ate half of an aubergine pizza. I have no absolute proof positive that it was this which cause last Friday's miserable up-chuck runny bum, but every time I *think* aubergine at the moment, I get a stomach cramp. That's evidence enough for me. Ouch.

There are two in the fridge at the moment. I think I might have to ceremonially compost them, after farting in their general direction.



Anonymous tomato said...

*stomach retracting in solidarity*

2:15 pm  
Blogger Liz said...

Aubergines rock. A purple so deep you could swim in it, topped off with the complementary green hat.

Versatile: grilled, bake, fry, stew.

Your problem was eating them on a pizza.

That's just not right.

1:37 am  
Blogger Spine said...

I too love aubergines. Roasted over a flame, peeled and m?xed with garlic and yoghurt. mmmmm. spread it on toast.

Here they call it patlican.


8:29 am  

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