Monday, May 18, 2009

Eggplant soup for the soul

When we lived in Japan we went the whole year on an anti-intuitive diet, denying ourselves fruit and vegetables. While all sorts of raw, suckered tentacles and green-tea cheesecakes found their way into our shopping baskets, the exquisite Fuji apples and swollen peaches remained stacked in their velveteen show cases. With the perverse economy of former students, we figured that while we could afford to spend a thousand yen on a beer, we couldn't afford to spend the same amount on an avocado or a red pepper or a handful of lychees. Instead we'd stalk the produce aisles looking for free tasters, then stockpile the satsumas we were given for school lunches, gorging on six or seven at a time in a desperate attempt to ward off scurvy.

Five years later we're in New York, and we're still trying to kick that habit. After living on organic vegetable boxes in London, we'd gotten used to European stockpiles of swedes, carrots and softening pears. Despite the vast farmlands of the American plains, the produce that makes it to Brooklyn reminds me of Tokyo's less appealing department stores: it wouldn't matter that it was so tasteless, so sprayed with death-dealing chemicals that you can blithely forget it in the bottom of your fridge for a month, if it weren't so stomach-twistingly expensive. After the Co-Op debacle I feel like we've been excluded from the garden of Eden and forced to wonder through a barren, bodega-strewn desert until we reach the promised CSA land at the end of June.

In the meantime, there's always soup. Roasted aubergine and red pepper and mushroom, with beefsteak tomatoes, onions, garlic and celery. Thyme, Parmesan rind and bay leaves, and a pinch of red spice which might be either paprika or chili powder. After a wince-inducing shop, and several hours of chopping/roasting/sweating/bubbling I had created a thick stew that smelled of health and happiness. It wasn't until several portions later that I realised I'd forgotten to add the liquid stock.

"Delicious." Chris murmured. "Kind of like pasta sauce."
Eventually he noticed my death stare, and the way that I'd let my spoon drop back into my bowl.
"What? What did I say?"

This week we'll be mostly eating Hamburger Helper and PopTarts (fruit-flavoured).

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