Thursday, December 04, 2008

Aubergine in a red bowl.


Near and far, the world is not a happy place. Nevertheless, we both sat down and painted for the whole afternoon, and we were happy. Tom did some watercolour cottages, and I did a painting of an aubergine with mushrooms and an onion, in gouache; the fresh produce supplies run a little low on Thursdays, so I was short of the full ratatouille. I'm fairly pleased with it, I've not done much in gouache for a while, but there's an art teacher on Flickr who badgers me to join various drawing and painting groups, and I'm glad she does, as it's a bit of a spur.

I was pleased with the enthusiastic response I received to aubergine a couple of posts back. They are certainly one of my favourite foods, in any form: ratatouille, heavy on the aubergine and light on tomato; grilled, including in sandwiches with salad and garlic mayonnaise; imam baldi (the imam fainted, either with delight or shock at the profligate use of olive oil ...), brinjal bhaji or any other use in curry, and any of the dippy kind of things from aubergine caviar to baba ganoush. A Japanese friend whose cooking, including her fish and chips, was the food of angels, used to cook them delectably in tempura. The etymology of the name is also delicious, coming as it does to French from Catalan from Arabic via Persian ultimately from Sanskrit, a distinguished and near-mystical pedigree, one might say. I thought I'd better supply a link and lo-and-behold the illustrious Language Hat has one of the best available. I should get there more often. Eggplant is also a good word, if more down-to-earth, and reminds one that they can also be as white as eggs. But when I say I love aubergine, I also mean the colour, which can only mean purple to black.

A fine memory of them was that of cycling the lanes around Muchelney in Somerset, near where my mother used to live, visiting the beautiful old Abbey and picking up a bottle or so of Burrow Hill cider, and calling in on a farm where a lady, the farmer's mother, used to sell the surplus from her vegetable garden, including delicious long thin aubergines, as well as peppers and spinach. I bought half a bottle of Burrow Hill's first ever cider brandy, and really should have kept it as it would probably be very valuable now, but it was just too good.

25 comments:

herhimnbryn said...

A delicious post L. Your painting is so good. I want to reach through the screen and touch. We love Aubergine in this house too. I still call it such, although here it is known as eggplant. Courgettes are zuchinni and I get puzzled looks if I forget and ask for courgettes at the grocery.
Have you had the baby aubergine that have pink and white stripes? Almost too pretty to eat.

Marja-Leena said...

How wonderful to both paint together, nice work and a tasty story, too! I've only cooked eggplant, as we call it, for a couple of years...that's how new it is to me, though I've eaten baba ganoush somewhere. We really like a quick ratatouille dish that I make - the recipe was posted in a review of the film 'Ratatouille'. Have you seen it?

Zhoen said...

Aubergine, great word, great color. I'll leave mine for you to eat, though.

Bee said...

I do like "aubergine" much better than eggplant . . . it rolls in the mouth so nicely. I have two fat aubergine sitting in my dirty (literally, in dirt) organic box on the kitchen floor. I always make ratatouille with them, but perhaps I should be more inventive? I do like their silky purplish-black skin, not so much for eating but for touching.

Your painting is very pleasing . . .

Zephyr said...

Oh my goodness! You have captured that aubergine skin/shine/texture perfectly...and the reflections on the red bowl...YUM.

Catalyst said...

I was going to say "Aubergine? That's a freakin' eggplant!" But that's been taken care of.

Painting, photography, poetry, prose, nurse, veterinarian. My god, Lucy, is there anything you can't do?

Sheila said...

I love your painting! I love that you paint with your husband! I wonder if that could ever happen in our house....you've given me a challenge....

I think of them as melanzane, because I never liked eggplant as cooked when growing up. But when I moved to Italy a whole world of possibilities opened up, and now it is one of my favorites, too.

Thanks for this happiness.

christopher said...

What a hoot, to trace the word, and discover that it can quite likely travel from Sanskrit through Persian, then Arabic, and through the Moors, then into French. How delightfully incestuous to move from one side of the Indo European divide into the other.

I don't know about white eggplants. I always assumed it got that name from the taste which is unique and a little like eggs to me. Eggis, eiren. Ancient English from the Norse I believe. Like child, children.

The tragedy, I cannot use the word aubergine without becoming a culture snob. No one would know what I was talking about and then would complain. But it is a MUCH better name than eggplant.

Crafty Green Poet said...

Your painting is wonderful, the red of the bowl particularly. I love aubergines too and was very happy to find some in my green curry last night.

Dave King said...

That is a very fine painting; the colouring, the modelling and the composition. Are we going to see anything of Tom's?

Plutarch said...

I so much approve and agree about aubergines, their colour and texture and shape. You should be proud of the painting. Have you tried them sliced and griddled with bars across the flesh. Or roasted with the inside scopped out, mixed with lemon juice and used as a dip? That's what you describe as aubergine caviar, I think

Lucy said...

Thank you! It occurred to me I'd left out moussaka... also that, with the onions,aubergine are apparently the only Old World ingredient in ratatouille, the others - peppers, courgettes and tomato, all being arrivals from the Americas. Sinse they are a solanum, this rather surprised me, I assumed they too were New Worlders, but the Persian/Sanskrit etymology clearly indicates that they aren't.

HHB - yes, and your peppers are all capsicum, which I like as a word. I've seen stripey ones here, though full-sized, and white too, but to my mind they are a rather pricey novelty, and the point of an aubergine is partly its colour!

ML - I haven't seen the film; I'm reminded of Fawlty Towers and 'he put Basil in the ratatouille!'.

Zhoen - Tom's not fond of them either, though he did once cook a fine curry with them. All the more for me!

Bee - yes, branch out! They are very good with lamb, or with chickpeas too. I like ratatouille but feel there are too many tomato based dishes in the world, though I sometimes just moisten them with a little passata...

Zephyr - thanks! I was uncertain about the reflections on the skin, but in the scan they looked better. I'm resolved never to draw or paint larger than A4, so I can always scan what I do, everythign always looks better! the red bowl is quite a good colour match to the real one.

Catalyst - well, my particle physics is a little shakey, as is my hula-hooping technique...

Sheila - it's a little unusual, but was a nice part of the peaceful convalescent atmosphere, and good for the spirits. Melanzene is a lovely word. Keep happy, it's precious (in the proper sense).

Christopher - I do see what you mean, there is something of the same succulence of a good omelette, say, though that could perhaps be suggestion. Glad you enjoyed the word-tracking!

CGP - Now that is presumably a Thai green curry? A friend of South African origin often refers to them as brinjals, from the Malay, as they tended to introduce them to that part of the world... sounds tasty anyway!

Dave - Thank you, gouache as I use it isn't terribly subtle. Tom thought he might put his w/colour on a Christmas card, so I didn't ask to use it, but he says I could, though he's not 100% satified with it... perhaps later.

Lucy said...

Plutarch - you snuck in there! I love them griddled like that, and sometime even cook them so when tom's eating steak from the same griddle-pan, in preference to the steak! They also go well thus in sandwiches. I like the dips, sometimes buying ready made aubergine caviare for a quick resource, and baba ganoush is very similar but with cumin etc. Someone I read thought perhaps the caviar analogy was from when they contained more seeds which gave a more grainy texture. In fact though, I tend to like them retaining a little more of their textural integrity, I think!

christopher said...

Lucy, I think I have to correct the one thing though. I think it is ei, eiren. Egg, eggis? That's the Norse influence, ei, eiren is Germanic, I think. I would have to go back to the course and find the right spot in many cds to be sure.

herhimnbryn said...

I stood in the local veg. shop yesterday and picked up Aubergine, I felt you looking over my shoulder!

It will be grilled on the BBQ tonight. A whole Aubergine just for me, while the Alchemist eats steak!

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Don't you just love their colour? The best coloured vegetable, I've always felt. Lovely painting.

Isabelle said...

I especially love the way you've painted the bowl.

You know, it never struck me that those wonderful old Dutch Masters who painted still life with vegetables and fruit were limited by what their wives happened to have left over from supper. Now I know.

meggie said...

You have made my mouth water, both with your lovely painting, & your recipe ideas. I love Eggplant & Prawns at a local Chinese Restaurant.
I must make Ratatouille again!

Reluctant Blogger said...

Oh I love the painting and the idea of you both sitting together painting. Idyllic. The only thing Al and I ever did together in that sense was decorating - not quite the same thing at all!!

I adore aubergine. Along with spinach it is one of my favourite veg. I often do grilled aubergine with pesto and mozzarella for supper. The boys will eat it in that form as it is a bit like pizza.

I also love moussaka but they are less keen on that.

My youngest son strokes aubergines when I buy them - he loves their glossiness and unreal colour!

French Fancy said...

what a fabulous painting - you want to touch it.

I love aubergine and lentil curry

Lucas said...

I love the painting and the reflections on cider.

Dick said...

A fascinating post topped by a delightful painting.

Philippa said...

Oh Lucy, this is just stunning.

I love your various aubergine anecdotes as well - I'm curious about the japanese fish and chips :)

marly said...

Grand that you have been painting again--and congratulations on the "qarrtsiluni" cover!

Liz said...

Just lovely, Lucy! They're the most gorgeous things to eat and to look at.