The racist-attacked vegetable eggplant, which has almost disappeared from our culinary heritage
vegetable paella

The racist-attacked vegetable eggplant, which has almost disappeared from our culinary heritage

“The only Mediterranean product that truly standardizes and perhaps one day unites it is the presence of eggplant in all culinary cultures, from Syria to Murcia, Viareggio to Tunisia,” wrote Manuel Vázquez Montalbán. As a fine culinary intellectual, the brilliant Catalan journalist and writer had a sixth sense to find the exact words and make the vulgar sublime and sublime vulgar as it was said in his book. against gourmets. But in the case of eggplant, maybe, just maybe, he was putting his personal opinion before the irrefutable truth. And the fact that the eggplant is a core component of multiculturalism, is also the launching weapon of the worst racism, almost to the point of disappearing, and is the hallmark of multiple celebrity chefs’ homes today.

“Eggplants have not always managed to gain unanimous support. Inside health regime (1198) advises against the consumption of Maimonides and writes that eggplant is harmful to men. Ermolao Barbaro, the fifteenth-century humanist, I am a known person (unhealthy apple)”, writes historian Hélène Jawhara Sephardic. cooking history (Col&Col Ediciones, 2022) brings together a selection of 50 recipes that reflect the gastronomic traditions of the descendants of Jews living in Spain and the converts condemned before the Inquisition.

“An analysis of numerous literary and legal sources, as well as cookbooks written under Christian rule, shows that eggplant was frequently eaten by Sephardic Jews. This tradition created a negative and often satirical culinary association that was used to ridicule and condemn converts, reflecting a social position that transcended purely gastronomic criticism. The latter is evidenced by the words of Peregrino Artusi, a 19th-century Italian intellectual and gastronome, who wrote that at the beginning of the 19th century, eggplants were almost impossible to find in the Florence market, despised because they were considered Jewish. Food.

Sephardic eggplant book

Sephardic book. The cooking history of Hélène Jawhara’ (Col&Col Ediciones, 2022)

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A full-fledged witch hunt with the ability to demonize a vegetable as the wick of the accusing finger. “The almost complete absence of eggplant in the cookbooks of Spain under Christian rule is testament to the desire of the new leaders to erase the eating habits of the Sami peoples from their Spanish culinary heritage. (…) For example; boron (aubergines with meatballs) were considered Jewish food and were condemned”, says Hélène Jawhara. “Actually, the Toledo Inquisition court accused several families of eating ‘cold eggplant stew’. casserole like the Sabbath lunch they prepared the day before.”

Christians considered eggplants an impure food, as they were a regular part of the Jewish cookbook.

Maliciously associating a food with an ethnic group or race is not a special case of eggplant, as in other cultures and other times, for example, African Americans with the watermelon stereotype have an unusually large appetite for the food. watermelon A fact introduced during the emancipation of Black slaves and inexplicably pervasive in American culture in the 21st century, causing many African-Americans to refuse to eat watermelon in front of white people simply because of discomfort.

What makes eggplant unique is that, in addition to the drastic decline in the peasantry during the 20th century, it caused side effects such as its scarce use in the kitchen and the temporary disappearance of some varieties, such as the white eggplant. It’s less bitter and more doughy than the traditional healing one in Bages and other parts of the Catalan lands, such as Pla de l’Estany and Empordà.

white eggplant

white eggplant

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As an expert on this blemish in history, gastronomy and historian Jaume Fàbrega opposes Montalbán’s maxim about the hegemony of the aubergine’s Mediterranean coast from north to south and east to west. “I’m a big fan of the immeasurable Montalbán, but in this case, I think the king product of the Mediterranean (from abroad) is the tomato. What would we do without Sofrito?” states the author of the twelve-volume book. Mediterranean cuisine. “However, I think eggplant is the queen of vegetables. Catalan, Valencian and Balearic cuisine makes good use of this. Especially in Mallorca, with pomegranate (eggplant and meat cake) or tombet. Roasted, fried and battered in Catalonia. Specifically, escalivada should be made using eggplant embers or directly over the flame of a fire, as it has always been done. Of course, it should never be left raw. And in the Valencian Community it is grilled with garlic and parsley”. And it creates a separate section to remember cuisines from other places. “Cuisines like Turkish and Greek and of course Indian cuisine. this Mousaka anyone Father Ganoush, but I also enjoyed it in the Balkans, in Italy and even in Italian Switzerland (in pickles). Preserved in Morocco or La Mancha”.

Originating from the Indian Subcontinent, eggplant traveled to the Arabian Peninsula and did not take root in Spain until the 10th century. Eleven centuries later, it is a vegetable that continues to show a certain respect to those who do not cook regularly. vegetables are “easier,” as if the fine line between disaster and success were a reason to reject it. “Some have the same fear of eggplant as other vegetables,” says Marc Puig-Pey, head of the food laboratory responsible for Fundació Alícia, and they have published several recipe books to encourage the use of eggplant. “Personally, I do not understand this respect. I think, along with onions, zucchini and peppers, eggplant is part of the main vegetable team in Catalonia. I guess he hesitates to cook rather than the vegetables themselves. On the one hand, it is one of the most admired in the kitchen, and it is very difficult to spoil it or make a really bad meal. On the other hand, it is a bloody vegetable if you do not remove the bitterness (leave it in water and salt) or control the cooking point so that it does not remain raw. Just as zucchini, onions or peppers are raw, it is not so serious, it cannot be eaten with eggplant”.

Eggplant has an indisputable culinary value when grilled, fried or baked.

and leave a Tips for novice cooks (and not so new). “People usually stick with the fried or roasted version, but at Fundació Alícia we usually do it in the microwave. Cut the eggplant in half lengthwise and put it in a bowl with a tablespoon of water. All covered with a plate and microwaved at maximum power for 5 or 6 minutes. A perfect eggplant stays roasted. And if you still want to give it a little more flavor power, let it brown a little before putting it in the microwave to speed up the cooking time. Or even the opposite, to first microwave it, then pan fry it. Once, in the microwave “We simulated a vegetable goose by half-boiling the eggplant. We peel the skin, slice it to a finger thickness, pass it through floured and oiled paella. When you see the final result, no one will tell you it’s a vegetable.”

Entering the haute kitchen space, eggplant is undoubtedly one of the favorites of celebrity chefs. This situation Jordi Villafrom the regularly prepared Alkimia and Alkostat restaurant cocaine again. “The emblem of Catalan cuisine, born from the combination of pepper, onion, eggplant, flour, water and oil. Each item worked with its own special process. Pure artisan cuisine with optional anchovies,” they say. In the middle of the eggplant season, which occupies the hot summer months and lasts until mid-October, it is common to see eggplants on kitchen fires. alchemy escalivado for later use.


Perhaps who else has positioned the eggplant on the Olympus of high cuisine? Josean Alija one of the signature dishes: Roasted eggplant makil goxo and olive oil yogurt. “In some times and places it was considered poisonous and was used only as an ornament. There is nothing but reality, eggplant has an undeniable gastronomic potential. To define a quality eggplant, we must adhere to the color, homogeneity and firmness of the skin, as well as its size. The tastiest eggplants are usually the toughest and most tender, with smooth, wrinkle-free skin and a shiny, deep purple color. If we press the shell and it stays marked, we know it’s ripe. When at home, it should be stored in the refrigerator and isolated from other vegetables, as eggplant dies faster due to the ethylene produced by them when inhaled. It is a product that does not have a pleasant taste when boiled, but still has an indisputable culinary value when grilled, fried, pan-fried, gratinated, steamed or baked.”

Alija eggplant strings

Alija eggplant strings

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Moncho Méndez from Coruña restaurant MilloThe brand new winner of the Galician Gastronomy Forum’s Galician Cook Award 2022 opts for the baked version.

“I love working with eggplant in the summer. Also, people love it, maybe because it is a less common vegetable in the Galician homes, mostly in restaurants. Last year I started working with organic farmers Os Biosbardos. I passionately follow the principles of permaculture and syntropic farming in the As Mariñas region. Eggplants are more silky and I like to use albino escalivadas ‘a la bilbaína with a little broth.”

Eggplant Bilbao style

Eggplant Bilbao style

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Peter AguileraFrom the Mesón Sabor Andaluz restaurant in the Cadiz municipality of Alcalá del Valle, he uses different varieties of eggplant for his excellent dishes. “I like to finish the salty part of the summer menu with wood-fired cracked eggplants. We are currently working with Extiercol agroecological association with white, black, striped eggplants and eggplants we call ‘morcillera’, because frankly, it resembles black pudding, my mother convinced me. There is nothing like white. it has a soft beak, it oxidizes much less, we cook dishes like aubergine with tuna sauce onionfried almonds and grated tuna heart or eggplant with cottage cheese”.


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