An Ode to My Best Dish
My son, Lewis, lives in San Francisco so I don’t see him all that often. When I do, I love to watch him enjoy his favorite foods and take him to his favorite places in town. Lewis is a talented spoken word poet as well as an inventive writer of poems and stories. I’ve reprinted one of his poems that pays tribute to a dish I do best, my eggplant/chicken parmagian. But first a story from a long time ago:
Picture it: 1972 (before Lewis was born). My then husband and I were entertaining a close friend and I had made my famous eggplant/chicken/shrimp parmagian, which was almost ready to eat. They left the house for “a few minutes” that turned into over an hour and I was steaming. I wouldn’t give them the satisfaction of calling them with a dinner bell; I went upstairs and sulked. But, before I left the parmagian to their eager hands and mouths, I just couldn’t let them mangle it, so I drew out a PARMAGIAN MAP letting them know where each of the ingredients could be found. That’s how serious I take my parmagian.
Then, my husband and I spend a few hours frying up about 5 eggplants and 20 – 30 pieces of chicken breast. We bought a special electric frying pan for this!
I assemble the ingredients in piles of 3: always eggplant, chicken, eggplant in large pans that are then put in the freezer. When entirely frozen (2 days) we separate each pile (about 2 dozen or so) and use the food vacuumer to keep fresh. When Lewis comes home for a visit, I always have one or two for him.
Here’s his poem:
Frozen. Foil wrapped and rectangular.
Waiting, after a long time away from home, for me.
Metallic-cold, shiny, frosted with a light-ice layer, dense.
My mom makes the best chicken parmesan.
She makes it once or twice every year
and layers the chicken with interlaced eggplant layers.
Made in gigantic tub-filling proportions.
Rich savory garlicky tomato sauce, laden with basil, oregano, peppers, parmesan cheese.
Sedimentary layers coated.
An ancient chicken-eggplant formation of the southwest after a rich iron flow.
Oh it’s grand!
After the parm is done
that’s what we call mom’s parmesan by the way,
She freezes almost all of it
to ration out
to foreign dignitaries, returning expatriates, close deserving gastronomically un–
challenged friends, and her overly-appreciative son
for the upcoming year.
Slightly breaded, slightly crunchy, steamy when cut into.
The red sauce sloo0Ooowly oozes, garlic, breadsy-herb tones lingering upwards.
The eggplant skin, the purple barely visible, providing a bit of a challenge to cut, if only
using a fork, which is all I usually use- the side of the fork, pushing down. May as well use a spoon, but I think if I did I would be off the parm-recipient list!
on the rectangular wooden dining room table; bold grains exposed.
My mom, happy, energetic, smiling, happy to listen as I tell recent tales of Lew-dom.
Step dad, silver curly hair, smiling, leaning back between bites, responding to my tales.
Mom tells me (she always tells me during these joyous parm fests) who has been saved a
piece, and how many pieces are left and who got cut from the parm rations this year and why and
I find it very amusing and
so does mom.