Melanzana, aubergine, mad apple–it’s all eggplant to me

“How can people say they don’t eat eggplant when God loves the color and the French love the name? I don’t understand.”
Jeff Smith (The Frugal Gourmet)

DSCN5072

DSCN5073

DSCN5613

First the flower, then the emerging fruit and finally the fully grown black beauty.
Eggplants making their way in the garden.

And yes, eggplant, as it is commonly referred to here in the US, is indeed a fruit and not a vegetable–matter of fact, it’s actually considered a berry.
Who knew?
Another little known fact is that eggplants contain nicotine, but the levels are so negligible that those smokers out there don’t need to get all excited.

Because I am Sophia Loren’s love child—oh you didn’t know that?
Don’t worry, Sophia Loren doesn’t know it either, but don’t tell my college roommates that.
They were convinced. Has to do with all that adoption business and a love of all things Italian but I digress as usual.
I thought at an early age I needed to add the eggplant to my palate.

And those giant purple things found in the grocery store can be a bit intimidating to the home cook. I mean really, what does one do with a giant purple globule of a veg. . . eh, fruit?!

Yes there is the standard quasi Italian eggplant parmesan, and the French melange of ratatouille, but I live in the South remember—we fry everything, including eggplant.

I wonder why that is.
I’ve never really stopped long enough to research why we southerners find it important to fry almost anything and everything. Didn’t I once read that Elvis’s favorite food was to fry a bacon, peanut-butter and banana sandwich? And now there’s tell of fried oreo cookies, and fried ice-cream and fried cheesecake—but the standard bearers are of course fried chicken, fired okra and fried green tomatoes. . .well, there’s just not much anything better than any of those nor anything much more Southern—except for maybe fried eggplant.

Here’s a couple of shots from a previous frying episode

DSCN1868

DSCN1869

DSCN1871

Here’s a quick tutorial to serving fried eggplant.

I always peel my eggplant—the skin can often taste bitter and does not break down well when fired, making for unpleasant eating. I find that store bought eggplant’s skin is more bitter and tough than my garden fresh variety, but it just makes for easier eating to peel it away.

Slice the eggplant into thin rounds.
The pictures here are of the large more global shaped eggplant verses the more sledder Japanese eggplant pictured earlier in the post–either one works splendidly.

There are even white eggplants–which seem to fit the whole name thing much better than the purple specimens.
I grew white ones once.
My husband likened them to looking more like dinosaur eggs than a delectable vegetable / fruit and was a bit put off—hence my now standard bearer purple variety.

First, I soak my eggplant in buttermilk.

Often folks will salt the rounds, layering them in a colander to drain for about 30 minutes, as this helps to remove the bitterness in the seeds (I wonder if that’s where the nicotine is hiding, hence the bitterness. . .)
I find that the soak in buttermilk is sufficient to render excess moisture and any lurking bitterness–soak about 30 minutes.

Prepare a plate or shallow pan with a mix of cornmeal, a little flour, salt, pepper, and any other spice addition that may float your boat–making for a nice dredging mixture.

Prepare a skillet with about a 1/2 inch of canola oil and heat over med heat until a pinch of flour dropped in sizzles or for the more exact among us—between 275 and 325 degrees.

Remove a round at a time out of its soaking liquid, allowing it to drip free of excess buttermilk— then dredge the eggplant round in the cornmeal mix, coating throughly on both sides.

Place coated rounds in the pan making certain not to overcrowd or overlap.

Fry on one side till a nice golden brown then flip to finish the other side.

Remove the cooked rounds to a wire rack to drain.

Fry remaining rounds then lightly salt, dust with grated parmesan cheese and serve immediately. You may serve with a dipping sauce of choice—a spicy remoulade, or fresh tomato salsa is nice, but my husband prefers a horseradish sauce for a little kick.

Enjoy!!
Mangia!

My secret German love

IMG_0355

Call it Feng Shui, Chi, Balance, harmony or simply symmetry–
however you wish to view it or to name it, it is me and I am it.
I don’t know if I came preprogrammed this way or not,
but I am a very symmetrically oriented person.
Equally weighted and equally balanced.
None of this asymmetrical business for me.

And so it goes when I work on my own art.

I have always loved working with watercolors…
I like working with people, birds, nests, eggs, and you name it.
However, all my life I have felt that I have really wanted / needed to create
some type of opus, some sort of monumental tribute to God.

Why is that you ask?

Well, I think people who have talents and gifts—
well, they just don’t plop out of the sky.
A gift is just that—a gift…and it is something someone has given to someone else.
God has given me much, so what little I can give back…
well I’ve wanted to do it with a visual piece of art.

I’ve spent a lifetime looking at the Italian Renaissance masters,
passing later on to the Northern Renaissance…
with then the Germans and Dutch masters.
Powerful artists, who not only mastered body and mass,
but captured the epitome of emotion.
I can find myself in tears, full of emotion, while staring at various pieces.
I love the works of the Italian Caravaggio (see post What is an Icon).
Caravaggio’s Conversion of St Paul, or as it is actually known,
The Conversion on the Way to Damascus… is but one such piece.

300px-Conversion_on_the_Way_to_Damascus-Caravaggio_(c.1600-1)

The space is tight; the figures juxtaposed with precarious lines of placement
and the use of light, crucial light—
oh Caravaggio’s use of light…
Critics argue about the use of space with the horse,
Paul /Saul, the groomsman, too many legs, not enough focus on Paul, etc.
I must disagree with the “critics” as I find it powerful.
Very powerful!

It is my belief that because this is a tremendous moment in time and
that it is somewhat crammed into a tight space as the horse seems to precariously
control his mighty weight so as to not step on Paul…
who is splayed out on the ground beneath him,
as a sword is dropped to the ground, just as the stricken figure of Paul/ Saul
lies now defenseless having been struck blind…
It is because of all of this and more that seems to make this big moment even bigger.
It’s a millimoment in time that is captured… and it works—or at least works for me.
It makes me feel overwhelmed and leads me to believe that I am witnessing something that is
shattering time.
Oh those Italians——always masters of emotion——
the wonderful excess of such.

However as far as an artist who captures raw emotion with such vivid use,
there is none more so, to me, than the German Matthias Grünwald.
Who you ask?
A German, not an Italian?
All I ever talk about is my love affair with all things Italian and here I am suddenly
coming out with a secret German love?!
Yes.
I confess, a secret German love.

Unfortunately there is not much to the history books regarding Matthias.
He is a bit of an enigma.
His last name is really not his real last name.
As it seems a 17th century biographer inadvertently added Grünwald.
It is believed his name was actually Matthias Gothardt Neithardt.
He was born in Würzburg in 1480 but even that comes under question.
Who he studied under, who studied under him, all remains but a mystery.

The one thing that is not a mystery is Grünwald’s use of emotion.
We must remember that the artists of Grünwald’s time operated in a time even before
the printed word.
Images were everything;
they spoke volumes to the viewer—–their works, their paintings,
were the You Tubes of the day.
And yes, I like art that evokes emotion, passion and feelings–
why stare at something that speaks of nothing?

It is Grünwald’s Isenheim Altarpiece that, for me, evokes that tremendous emotion.
(again see the post “What is an Icon” as I’m taking from that post a tad)

crucifixion

This is one of my most favorite images of the crucifixion,
as it shows not a languid image of an intact pretty European body of Christ seemingly
floating against a cross, but rather in contrast,
it shows in graphic, vivid detail the results of a deadly beating,
a body nailed, pierced, abused, now dead body in full rigor mortis—-
the altarpiece was commissioned for a hospital in Colmar (now France but originally in Germany)
for patients with various skin afflictions (most likely plague and leprosy and St Elmo’s fire).
Hope in suffering—
resurrection form death…
Glory and victory over sin.

It is believed that Matthias may have been a plague victim and perhaps he had seen the
Black Death up close and very personally…
leading to his apparent visual knowledge of the human body in the midst of the mystery
known as death.
It is also his vision of what transpires after that death which is also worthy of attention.

It is from my appreciation of Matthias, and other artists,
who can so realistically capture the emotional dramas of human life and death,
as well as the mystical beauty often found in illuminated manuscripts,
that has lead me on my own journey of exploration of such mysterious moments
in time through my use of the visual arts.

I started working on my “spiritual” pieces about 12 years ago.
They began with the idea of the cross, ancient medieval texts,
the use of biblical languages such as Hebrew, Latin, Greek, and Aramaic,
as well as the use of mysterious mystical images as teaching tools.

The latest piece is a Triptych—
hence my love and need for balance and the symbolism as captured most
respectfully in this piece for the blessed Trinity.
It is not complete.
This whole “retirement” issue threw me for a bit of a loop and the groove of my diligent
quest has been slightly sidetracked.
There is a monastery in Hulbert, Oklahoma, Our Lady of Clear Creek Abbey that I wish to
eventually donate the piece to—
they are a group of Benedictine monks,
originating out of Notre-Dame de Fontgombault,
a French Abbey, which belongs to the Solesmes Congregation.
I will write a later post about St. Benedict and the Rule of Benedict—–
a wonderful standard in which to conduct ones life.
I will also showcase the monks of Clear Creek Abbey.
http://clearcreekmonks.org/

I thought that during Holy Week,
it would be fitting that I share my love of God’s idea of symmetry
(Trinity/ Triptych/tri/three) with you, my viewing friends.

IMG_0373

IMG_0372

IMG_0364

IMG_0353

IMG_0362