Friday, January 20, 2006

berenjena = eggplant

January 11

The local-versus-shipped-from-far, far-away debate wasn't on the minds of the Mexican produce growers I was visiting. The pro-local groups in the United States, though vocal, remain relatively small and coastal. Most Americans are rather indifferent to local, sustainable, organic and otherwise special food. That's changing, but not as quickly as all the press about it would have you believe, and the Sinaloan growers of massive quantities of fruits and vegetables are aiming for the bulk buyers who want a big, steady supply of consistent, affordable, attractive product. Their mission was to convince us that their produce was safe to eat, that their workers weren't being exploited and that their workers' children were being looked after.
And so we visited Agricola San Isidro, a family farm that grows 15 percent of all the eggplant consumed in the United States.
Now, this is intriguing, because Mexicans basically don't eat eggplant. But the farm's founder had immigrated from Greece, where people eat eggplant in abundance.
The Leyson family, which owns the farm, is doing its part to add eggplant to the Mexican pantry. After we visited the schooling facilities of their workers' children, and looked at their housing and medical facilities and convenience store (none of the workers seemed to be from Sinaloa, and thus I learned that Mexican produce is harvested by migrant workers, just as American produce is), we sat down to a lunch of eggplant with eggplant and eggplant:
Parmesan crisp with ragoût of eggplant, bell pepper and tomato
Cream of eggplant soup with roasted pine nuts.
Thinly sliced grilled eggplant topped with rice, roasted fish and bell peppers
Tuna skewered with eggplant, bell pepper and smoky bacon
Hibiscus tea
Añejo tequila
Baked sweetened bread rolls filled with eggplant marmalade.

Some of my fellow travelers were unaccustomed to drinking hard liquor straight, so I finished their tequila for them. Waste not, want not.


WestTexasChef said...

Bret, I would have loved to help you with the tequila. And I love eggplant! (The mexicans I have worked with in the kitchen do not call it "Berenjena" but do use a much more descriptive name for it which I do not care to translate here on a blog.

Bret Thorn said...

And I would love to drink tequila with you someday, West Texas.
Thanks for the tact regarding eggplant.