I’m going to have a tomato instead. Instead of anything I’ve mentioned or thought about it. But it’s not an ordinary tomato, this is a 312g (11oz) home-grown stripey thing tinged with green bursting with goodness type of tomato. I’ve probably got the only one in Auckland right now balanced on a kitchen scale. So it’s unique. My dinner is unique. I’m going to slice it up and pour a puddle of extra virgin olive oil over it, dust it with flaky sea salt and a good grinding of pepper and add a squeeze of lemon. That’s all it needs. But first I might cook the eggplant. I might regret it if I don’t. Fry it in oil, serve it all rich and unctuous. All slippery, silky, charred-edged, and, like all black foods, a bit sort of spooky, only safe if you’ve cooked it yourself, sinful and rich. The Italian name for eggplant is melanzane. Mad. Madness. Mad apple. Bad apple. Who knows? 180g (6 1/4 lb) of spookiness. Gorgeous spookiness. I’m up for it!
Small pan. Get it hot. Cube eggplant. No smell of green pepper (a sign of unripeness and bitterness). Add good slosh of oil. Get oil hot. Add eggplant. Splatter screen on top of pan. Big sip of wine.
When they’re mostly brown, lower the heat then let the pieces cook until they are tender. That’s a mistake too many people make. They think once the eggplant is brown, that’s it, you can eat it. Wrong. It needs to be TENDER. Otherwise it will be astringent. A few minutes before serving it (resist the urge), throw in as much sliced garlic as you like, stir around, season with a good few flakes of sea salt and a little pepper, then dish it into a bowl. A pasta bowl. You’ll find they’re a convenient serving vessels for one. They make it look like you’ve got more food than you have as it sort of spreads out rather than getting lost in a deep bowl like those trendy noodle bowls. Don’t go there. Not for this kind of food.
Then do the tomato salad. The trick is to slice it into thick rounds – big rounds – this is not the kind of thing to do with a wossy tomato – and again, you serve it in a pasta bowl. A proper Italian pasta bowl, not a modern deep bowl. This is the only way to do it. You should serve lots of things in pasta bowls. That way you would use these bowls more often and get your money’s worth.
I can’t possibly eat a 300g tomato.
A piece of sourdough. The last piece of sourdough. Actually it’s a crust. A dried out crust that would choke a seagull. Bin it. Soft floury supermarket roll instead. Toast it to dry it out and get some crunch. That’s the catch isn’t it? I want something crunchy but not too crunchy.
Set the table. Always. With a cloth. And a napkin. An old red checked faux Italian napkin. Except it IS an Italian napkin. I bought a set of red-checked napkins and a tablecloth 22 years ago in Tuscany at the place that had the lucertolas crawling up the wall, and we’ve used the napkins regularly every since. They don’t match the cloth I’m using now. But so what. They never had a hope in hell of matching the cloth.
The food’s enough for three people but you sort of hope no one comes home on a night like this.
The fork hits the side of the bowl with a sort of ‘ting’, like an announcement saying ‘start eating now’. I look at it, then I hear the fan again.
I don’t know if it is what I want to eat, but it is what I have cooked, so it is what I will eat. Willingly.
Help! I ate the whole tomato.