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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Eggplant Surprise

Someone left an eggplant at my front door on Friday night. No note, no bag, just the eggplant, sitting on the step in the space between my storm and front doors. 

Over the years I’ve come home to the occasional surprise—flowers, a wreath, a basket of chocolate-covered fruit—but none of those experiences prepared me for the unexpected arrival of a piece of purple produce.

I live on a very friendly street where people go out of their way to get to know each other –a rarity these days –so I assumed one of my neighbors had left the eggplant for me.  But how would they know I even liked it?  Eggplant polarizes people, unlike tomatoes, cucumbers, or other less controversial items gardeners could hand off to just about anyone.  In fact, many people file eggplant with brussel sprouts and liver, in the “Foods Mom Served As Punishment” folder. 

(My mom, an accomplished cook and extremely kind soul, didn’t try to foist any of these on us, even though my father actually loved liver.  (We blamed his perplexing affection for organ meat on the cigarettes he smoked until his forties.  In exchange for letting him keep his lungs, they took his taste buds.  It was a good trade.)  Mom almost never granted his request for liver, which my siblings and I very much appreciated.  Our gratitude for her benevolence allowed us to forgive her when she once made a dish called “Shipwreck.”  Inexplicably, the name did not deter her.  Nor did the fact that one of the main ingredients was ketchup.  As I recall, baked beans, hotdogs and bacon rounded out the list.  If only she had served it on a funnel cake we could have called it “State Fair.”)

Knowing that some people turn up their noses at the mention of eggplant, I don’t tend to talk about it unless I know I’m among aficionados.  I imagine NASCAR fans follow a similar approach.   

I had no specific recollection of telling anyone on my street that I liked eggplant, so I just started thanking every neighbor I encountered.  No one claimed responsibility.  I began to canvass my friends. A typical exchange went like this:

Me: How was your weekend?
Friend: Great. I took the kids to soccer and [spouse] did [“yardwork” or “nothing,” depending on the spouse].  How was yours?
Me: Good.  I got an eggplant.
Friend: We went grocery shopping, too, but eggplant never made the list.
Me:  I didn’t get it at the grocery store.
Friend: Where’d it come from, then?
Me: I don’t know.
Friend: You mean you’re not buying local?
Me: No, I mean it showed up on my doorstep.
Friend: Through one of those co-op programs? [One of my closest friends, at this stage of the dialogue, said, "If someone left me an eggplant I'd take it as a threat."]

 As of this post, the mystery remains unsolved. I guess it’ll stay that way because I promptly roasted and ate the evidence without even thinking to dust for prints.



  1. What a fantastically bizarre surprise to find on your doorstep! The only surprises I ever receive on my doorstep are coupons for cleaning services and notifications from our property management company. I'm slightly jealous of your eggplant!

    1. A delightfully random act of produce! If you're nice to me maybe I'll leave one for you. When you least expect it...

  2. I'm in the "I hate eggplant, liver, and brussel sprouts" category. And my Mom baked pork chops in baked beans and hot dogs and the whole thing had a slathering of ketchup and mustard on the top. We didn't call it Shipwreck, but it sounds pretty close to what your Mom cooked. "train-wreck" was probably a better name for our dish....

  3. Dishes like these from that era explain why Julia Childs drank while she cooked.