A Luminous Halo

"Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end." --Virginia Woolf

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Location: Springfield, Massachusetts, United States

Smith ’69, Purdue ’75. Anarchist; agnostic. Writer. Steward of the Pascal Emory house, an 1871 Second-Empire Victorian; of Sylvie, a 1974 Mercedes-Benz 450SL; and of Taz, a purebred Cockador who sets the standard for her breed. Happy enough for the present in Massachusetts, but always looking East.

Monday, September 29, 2008

What I Had for Lunch Today: Szechuan Eggplant with Garlic

Szechuan eggplant with garlic is possibly my favorite Asian dish. Years ago, when my daughter was still too little to behave for long stretches in a restaurant, our family used to frequent an undistinguished dining spot in Enfield, Connecticut. It was called, I think, simply "Szechuan Restaurant." The lights were too bright and the waiters glared at restless children, even asked bluntly that you not bring them back again. The menu did not cater to American tastes--and this was before most Chinese places served anything beyond egg rolls, fried rice, and moo goo gai pan. The sea vegetables, rice noodles fried into birds' nests, sauces made without gooey cornstarch, and fiery peppers were a revelation to me.

Unfortunately, Szechuan Restaurant burned down before too long, leaving me with unfulfillable cravings. No internet then; I dug through library collections until I found a book of recipes that sounded like what I'd been eating there. I don't have any record of the book any more...just a few of the recipes I copied down almost thirty years ago. This is one of them.

A pound of eggplant, unpeeled, is cut into thumb-sized pieces and stir-fried in hot oil, then removed. In the same pan, a tablespoon each of minced garlic and ginger is stir-fried for a few seconds. Then a half-cup of vegetable broth, two tablespoons of soy sauce, a tablespoon of Chinkiang vinegar, a pinch of sugar, a tablespoon of hot bean paste, and the reserved eggplant is stirred in. The whole thing is simmered four or five minutes until most of the liquid is gone, then garnished with chopped scallion and a drizzle of toasted sesame oil. Eaten with rice.

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