Girl meets eggplant, they fall in love

eggplant parmDescribe the most satisfying meal you’ve ever eaten, in glorious detail.

This prompt is right up the alley of a story I love to tell.

On a visit to see a brother, and after a full day of driving all over the city playing tourist, we ended up in a teeny-tiny Italian restaurant for dinner; a place my sister-in-law knew to have excellent food. When I say, teeny-tiny, I mean the place probably only sat 15-20 people. It was situated in what quite possibly used to be a long corridor. The booths barely allowed enough room for people to pass between the tables and the opposite wall. The wait staff had to employ a sort of one-way only choreography in order to run food to/from the kitchen. There was a bit more room where we were seated toward the back, but all diners were wedged in pretty much cheek-to-jowel. And it was a packed night.

I ordered the Eggplant Parmesan. When it arrived it looked and smelled absolutely scrumptious. I took one bite of it and literally was catapulted into an unexpectedly sensuous flavor experience. The eggplant was cooked just right; not too mushy and not to dry. The marinara sauce was rich without being heavy, and popped with a perfect tomato tang, fresh basil, and lovely hints of red wine, red pepper and nutmeg. The breading was crisp and light, and all of it was topped with just the right amount of melted mozzarella and Parmesan.

I gratuitously “yummmm’d” and “mm-mm-mm’d” with each bite. My mom and sister-in-law laughed uncomfortably; Mom accusing me of being a dramatic put-on, repeating, “OK, L , that’s enough.” But I honestly couldn’t help it, the dish was truly that amazing!

The waitress stopped by, as they do, to see if we needed anything, etc., and I gushed, “Oh. My. God, I cannot believe how GOOD this is!!” It was the first time I had pulled my focus of my plate since it was set in front of me. My carrying on was easily overheard by just about everyone in this small establishment, and I noticed I was getting furtive glances from other tables and wait staff.

“I’m not exaggerating,” I defensively maintained. “It really is the most fabulous thing I ever had!”

A voice from somewhere in the restaurant said, “Yes, we can tell.” A polite laugh quickly moved through the place.

“I’m telling you,” I persisted, “it’s better than…sex!”

My sister-in-law busted out in a loud laugh, as did the diners who heard me say it. My mother squirmed and gave me another, “that’s enough.”

As the laughter died down, I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned around to see the woman at the next table looking at me with a mischievous smile. She was seated with a man opposite her. In a somewhat lowered voice she said, “You’ve obviously not been with my husband.”

The poor man blushed a 1000 shades of red. My sister-in-law once again, as well as my circumspect mother this time, busted out laughing. I laughed, too. The five of us were really in a fit. When I gained some composure, I cut up a bit of my meal, placed it on a bread plate, offered it to the woman, and then raised my wine glass at her husband. “We’ll just have to see about that,” I said, which made him blush again.

Somewhere I have a picture taken by my sister-in-law the next day of me at an outdoor farmer’s market “cheek to cheek” with an eggplant. She teased me about it for a couple of years afterward, but I didn’t mind. Like the first time you are kissed good and proper, it truly was, and remains to this day, the best meal I ever had.

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