I am mounting an eggplant rebellion.
To explain: I spent my twenties as a fairly strict vegetarian. When I started dating my now-husband, there were often few vegetarian choices on the menu when we ate out. Eggplant parmesan was a reliable choice; in fact the Friday night pizza and sub place we frequented for the first three years we lived together made the best eggplant parm sub I have had before or since. (Really tasty baklava, too, but that's another story...) My husband was not a vegetarian, but was willing to eat vegetarian at home. But not eggplant. Never eggplant. It was more than him not liking it -- he was and still is offended by its existence. "Empty fiber," he has told me more than once.
This character flaw was no deal breaker and we've been happily married for twelve years and have two children.
Our kids are really good eaters. They eat almost anything and especially fruits and veggies. My son does not like beets and my daughter does not like cauliflower. Fair enough -- I don't particularly like brussel sprouts. Everyone's entitled to one or two food aversions.
A couple of years ago I brought home a lovely eggplant, sliced it thin, put a bit of olive oil on it and grilled it up with dinner. I'm not pointing any fingers, but it's possible that my husband made a few jokes of the "eggplant is gross" variety. So it was no surprise that both my children tried a piece of grilled eggplant and stated they didn't like it. Whatever. Solidarity with Dad = more eggplant for me.
But you know how it is. If no one else will eat something when you make it, you make it less often. And now that I enjoy all the animal-based entrees when we eat out, I rarely consider ordering eggplant parm. So when I found this yummy sounding recipe for an eggplant dip, I decided to make it with my students instead of trying it at home.
Yesterday I brought two luscious, purple specimens into my class. "That's an eggplant?" a couple of kids questioned. I was thrilled just to think I was exposing them to something they'd never seen before. Isn't that what education should be about?
During reading time, I shared some basic nutritional info about eggplant. (With the kale and basil, we read short informative articles about those veggies, but I recognize the flaws of my jeweled veggie friend -- a nutrition article about it wouldn't be very long.) Instead they read a short essay that recognizes both the lovely and the horrifying about eggplant. It does not have your typical texture; it does make some peoples' lips kind of itchy.
Kids discussed the text in small groups (something we're working on for anything they've read) and then we shared out as a whole group. More thrills: my students were interested in trying it a new vegetable instead of being scared off. And of course, the question: "Why is it called eggplant? It doesn't look like an egg." We ended reading time by cutting them open and seeing what they looked like inside. They are a weirdly atypical fruit, with their spongy flesh inside that luminous violet skin. One student said if it smelled weird he probably wouldn't like it, so we let him get close for a sniff.
The fantabulous Su roasted the eggplant after lunch and in the last hour of day worked with groups of three and four to measure the rest of the ingredients while everyone else worked frenetically on a building challenge involving newspaper and tape. It was busy in the room! A few whirs of my food processor (lugged from home), the room was cleaned up, and everyone sat at their seats in anticipation. It's amazing how quickly a group of kids can clean up and settle down if they know there's food waiting at the other end...
I served small tastes spread on loaf two of the bread and kids shared their reactions. Three quarters of the class liked it and came back for seconds. Some comments:
"I think I'd like this spread on a turkey sandwich."
"This is the best thing I've ever eaten!"
"This would be really good with a slice of sharp cheddar cheese." (You know you're in Vermont when kids request sharp cheddar.)
One student, who began what will possible be a life-long love affair with kale two weeks ago said, "It would be better with kale chips." He needs a t-shirt that proclaims: Everything is better with kale chips.
No one complained about itchy lips. Today most kids ate more spread on slices of leftover bread from the school kitchen (Thanks, Emily!)
But here's the best part.
When I left school yesterday, I brought some with me. My daughter had said she wanted to try it, just in case maybe she did like eggplant after all. Knowing I'd hear about it if I didn't bring any for my son, too, I made up two mini-sandwiches for them to eat on the way home.
They ate it.
They liked it.
There are now three eggplant eaters in my house. My husband is outnumbered.
The eggplant rebellion has begun.