The Gearhead complained that we never do anything together. I was surprised; I thought he was perfectly content tinkering away on his cars in the barn, (in our garage, tucked behind the windbreak of trees, and crowding our driveway).
“What would you like to do together?” [wife edits: dinner out, maybe a movie or a play, maybe a trip to the art gallery, maybe a trip to Italy!]
“Well…we could dig up the septic tank together.”
[Wife edits, stunned: is that some kind of metaphor?]
The Gearhead and I celebrated nineteen years of marriage this fall. Though, celebrated is too generous a word for the cursory “Happy Anniversary” exchanged in the dawn-dimmed hallway scramble before work.
When I cast back, way back, to that shiny wedding day so many years ago, I addressed (lectured?) the wedding guests about the happiness trajectory of marriage, how it could be plotted on a graph. Here’s what it looks like:
I ended that speech by saying that there was no one else I would rather ride that roller coaster line with. Prophetic. [Wife edits: I’m trying to listen to my intuition better these days]. There are a lot of ups and downs and twists and turns. There’s times when it’s exciting and fun and other times when I scream that I’d just like to get off. The line isn’t smooth; a close up would reveal the truth. The line becomes more jagged as the x-axis scales smaller, to weeks, or even hours in a day, for example:
And sometimes we share ups and downs, because, let’s face it, in marriage you end up sharing everything. The Gearhead bought another race car [Gearhead edits: for teaching racing! And I want to share it with you! I’ll
take you with me!] [wife edits: no, you won’t]. He also scooped the Ontario second place for his class. [Wife edits: Damn it! Nothing like a second place finish to galvanize one towards try, try, trying again. But hey, I love the smell of money burning in a gas tank, don’t you? Insert loud sob].
To counter the Gearhead’s ups, the Gods of creative writing literary submissions have anointed me with a series of rejection letters. Each one pitches me into the ditch of despair. I feel burnt. I’m burnt out. I’m burned. I’m looking for a phoenix rising.
Smoke is a fantastic flavour in food. It’s why we all love barbecue so much, but with barbecue, the smoke flavour takes a back seat, layered behind a burnt caramel curtain of the Maillard reaction and any sugars or spices in sauces. This recipe, a super flavoured Baba Ghanoush, is so satisfying to create: take whole eggplants, stab them a few times with the tines of a fork, throw them under a screaming hot broiler for an hour, rotating a few times, and char the shit out of them. When completely black and cooled, the insides are creamy soft and permeated with the ethereal flavour of smoke. Magic. This method tends to satisfy any fire burning your belly [wife edits: or your mind].
Ottolenghi and Tamimi’s Burnt eggplant with garlic, lemon & pomegranate seeds
This is from the cookbook Jerusalem. It makes about 2-3 cups of dip/salad/side dish. (I usually leave the pomegranate seeds out…just because I always forget to buy one). It takes a good few hours to make and marinate (largely unattended), so plan accordingly.
4 large eggplants (31/4lb/1.5kg before cooking)
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
grated zest of 1 lemon and 2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
5 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. chopped flat leaf parsley
2 Tbsp. chopped mint
seeds of 1/2 large pomegranate (scant 1/2 cup/80 g in total)
salt and freshly ground pepper
Score the eggplants with a knife in a few places, about 3/4 inch/2 cm deep, and place on a baking sheet under a hot broiler for about an hour. Turn them around every 20 minutes or so and continue to cook even if they burst and break.
remove the eggplants from the heat and allow them to cool down slightly. Once cool enough to handle, cut an opening along each eggplant and scoop out the soft flesh, dividing it with your hands into thin, long strips. Discrad the skin. Drain the flesh in a colander for at least an hour, preferably longer, to get rid of as much water as possible.
Place the eggplant pulp in a medium bowl and add garlic, lemon zest and juice, olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and a good grind of black pepper. Stir and allow the eggplant to marinate at room temperature for at least an hour.
When you are ready to serve, mix in most of the herbs and taste for seasoning. Pile high on a serving plate, scatter on the pomegranate seeds, and garnish with remaining herbs.