How The Eggplant Got Its Name

How the Eggplant Got its Name

I named it
In ‘06 I was on loan to the Court Of the Ottomans
From Prince Ali the last of the Levantine kings of Hejaz
From the Court came the request
The love meal bint Abdullah
The daughter of Abdullah and her beloved
Ovadia.

I had sent for the marriage tea with gold flecks
From the tea master
To accompany the meal
I was asked to create something
Entirely new.

It was one of the holidays of the full moon
The full moon signifying the complete
Appearance of the newness drawn down during days of awe
And no challenge was too great.

There was a field of aubergines just beyond my rooms
We called them then nightshades
Or binjal in our dialect
al-badinjan in the tongue of my father
from the Persian badin-gan
my cousins in India where it originated the Sanskrit vatin-ganah.

I went and picked the finest of the field
Soaked them in salt to absorb the bitterness
From the nicotinoid alkaloids (related to tobacco plant of course),

I sliced the succulent aubergines
Stuffed them with a delicate tomato sauce spiced lightly
With fresh garlic and a perfect maltese basil
And drizzled it all with the finest olio vergine I have found
(the great olive oil must suffer)
Which at that time was the DiGregorio from the other side of the mountains
Near Spello
Where San Francesco once walked.

In the kitchen the aubergines were cooking
the Imam came for a taste (always a pest)
He stuck his finger into the tender aubergines
Tasted
And fell out in a full faint right there.

The first words the Imam uttered as he returned to us were,
This is the most delicious dish I have ever tasted
Thus the name that has accompanied the dish
I created that night
Imam Biyaldi
The Imam fainted.

I thought it an indignity
I was flamboyant with olio that night
The delicate aubergines remembered by the transmissions of false histories
The oil was too expensive and the Imam fainted dead away!
That’s not the way it was.

Later that night I served the delicious aubergine
To the bint Abdullah and her beloved Ovadia
Followed by the wedding tea from the tea master
With the gold flecks
They drank the tea under a canopy of linen created for just this occasion.

In the morning she sent me the following message:
The eggs have been planted.

I took that to mean that the wedding meal was successful
In every way

And from that moment on the beloved aubergines
Were known in our court

As eggplants.

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