Day 5 of the Active Advent Project
Today I’d planned to go running in the morning with my friend Jess but instead I bailed and slept in and figured I’d do something with this eggplant I have waiting in my fridge, the eggplant that is actually the initial impetus for this Advent blog project. A year or so ago I bought a cookbook after reading this review on it. Hungry? is a great publication by the really sweet UK company Innocent that manages to fit cute, fun, active, artsy, sophisticated, witty, funny, simple, and world-friendly all into tasty. Anytime somebody can turn good into appealing, I’m right at the front of the line to support them.
Anyhow, shameless plug aside, I was flipping through this cookbook the other day trying to decide what to make, and I came across the vegetables section, where it gives all kinds of easy things to do with vegetables as side and main courses. I had this health freakout, went to Safeway and bought all kinds of weird green things I never buy, and decided I’d make it part of a blog initiative. Eggplant was first on the list.
Now it is worth noting that I am way better at the exercise part of Active Advent than I am at the cooking part. I.e. the other day when I “helped Kristen cook” I really just paced around the kitchen telling her stories and jokes while she did all the work. I cheated, is what I’m saying, and I kind of did it again tonight when I made this eggplant dish.
Here’s what happened: I cut an eggplant in half, sprinkled olive oil and salt and pepper on it, and stuck it in the oven (400 degrees) for half an hour. Then I took it out and spread a tablespoon of pesto on each half and layered on slices of mozzarella, then threw it in for 5 more minutes and boom! Dinner.
This is my kind of cooking, first of all, because it’s not really cooking — more like assembling. Secondly, I love vegetable dishes that are secretly junk food, like tempura (veggie donuts), or veggie sandwiches (veggie pastries). In tonight’s instance, the eggplant truly serves as a boat on which the baked pesto-covered mozzarella floats into your mouth. Because consider the eggplant: it is as weird a veggie-beast as ever I have seen. First off, they are soft and light. Like they would hurt no one if thrown. They might make good pillows: if ever you were trapped in a grocery store, that might be where you’d take a nap, the eggplant section. They’re also purple, and oblong, and have nothing to do with eggs, as everyone knows. Some people call them aubergines, which is prettier, and more confusing. Because no matter how you slice it, they’re pretty tasteless.
That said, this element of Active Advent isn’t about me channeling Julie or Julia. It’s about practicing a type of waiting, experiencing the anticipation of the fact that something (good or bad) is coming at the end of my moving around in the kitchen. I suppose you could argue that even microwaving mac n’ cheese is doing that; but in 2012, I think we need to take at least a half an hour before we can call anything a real kind of wait. When you’re waiting, you have two options: waste your time away on nothing (Facebook and Instagram, this means you), or make something of it with something you need or want to or have been meaning to do.
My favorite part about the Hungry? cookbook is these spreads it has scattered throughout. I mean page spreads, not condiment spreads. It has “Things to do in 5 minutes,” or “Things to do in 15 minutes,” or “Things to do in 60 minutes,” etcetera (check the Innocent Homepage again to see an example). It’s a family cookbook, so it has things for adults and kids of all ages. Even in the recipes, the text is color-coded to show tasks that kids can do, and ones that adults should handle. The spreads are these cartoon-illustrated pages filled with ideas for fun, useful, or meaningful activities: “Pillow fight,” for example, or “Synchronise all the clocks in your house” [love that British spelling]; “Get your ping-pong on” or “Call someone you usually speak to when you’re doing something else and give them your full and undivided attention.” It encourages enjoyable and helpful behavior in the in-between. And isn’t that, whether in Advent season or in every other day, where we’re at always?