One of the biggest compromises I had to make with my husband, Daniel, back when we were dating was about eggplant. I realized he hated it, so I avoided cooking it for our together meals for years.
Whenever I was alone, though, I went all out on the eggplant front, stewing it down with olive oil, garlic and herbs into a dun-colored mush that looked suspect but tasted fantastic. Sometimes I added peppers and tomatoes to make it red and ratatouille-like. Sometimes I broiled it until it was burnished and the skin crunchy.
In her wonderful book â€œHome Cooking,â€ Laurie Colwin wrote an entire chapter called Alone in the Kitchen With an Eggplant, and her list of weird combinations inspired mine. She ate it both hot and crisp and cold and sludgy; with garlic and honey; with spaghetti; with tamari and lemon juice; with fried onions and Chinese plum sauce.
Somehow knowing that there were other people in their kitchens with solitary eggplants made it feel convivial and special, rather than lonely and obsessive.
A favorite eggplant recipe of mine during that period was to cook chunks of it with loads of spices, garlic, tomatoes and herbs until everything was collapsed and silky, then add a few eggs to the pan to poach, like a shakshuka.
This dish made sense to me on many levels. Have you ever seen a white eggplant? When small and ovoid, it really does look like an egg, or an egg wearing a little green hat, which is the calyx.
The culinary wordplay of combining eggplant and eggs was pleasing to me, and I liked the way the yolks broke into a sauce over the savory vegetables in the pan.
I probably ate more eggplant after I met Daniel than I had in my entire life before. My craving pulled strongest when satisfaction was limited.
Then, one day after we moved in together, Daniel came home early and interrupted me and my eggplant and eggs, which he asked to share. Turns out I had misunderstood; he just doesnâ€™t like baba ghanouj.
Part of me was delighted. Finally, I could bring my eggplant creations out in the light and savor them with the person I loved.
But I was also a little sad. Now that I had company in the kitchen with my eggplant, it would never be quite the same.