It’s easier to say hello to the new than to say goodbye to the old. There’s this kind of promise of hope. Like anything is possible. Our lives can change every day if we want them to, so I’m not sure why this buzzy-with-excitement feeling happens specifically around new life transitions, but, whenever I move, it always shows itself with loads of excitement and a little fear and lots of questions about self change. Will I learn a new hobby? Will I wake up happier? Will I eat more broccoli and fewer brownies? Will I become a bonafide flosser? Will I let go of the people who drag me down? Will I be able to hold on to the ones who lift me up? Will I be wise enough to know the difference?
These are the things that are passing through my mind in these last days we have in Portland, full of hope for what’s to come even though I’m not exactly sure what that is just yet. Except maybe the flossing part, I’m convinced no life transition will lead to a place of me flossing nightly so that’s pretty set and stone. But it’s okay, The New York Times told me so.
One thing I’d selfishly neglected to consider until we were sitting at a red tablecloth-clad four-top with Wu-Tang thumping around us just a couple of months ago, was what would change here while we were away. And who. We were there with two of our friends, you might remember them as Cat The Mushroom Scientist and her wife Tiffany. You know, the ones who gave me the world’s best advice about chanterelle foraging? Yeah, them. Anyway, we’re sitting there and wisely decide to order way too much – two large pizzas, several mounds of salad, a chilled pork terrine with smashed grapes, a few different cocktails, a couple of IPAs, and then this, a cornflake-crusted fried eggplant, sliced so thin, but not quite potato-chip thin, fried until golden and crunch-in-between-your-back-molars-crispy, and finished with a few slices of mozzarella and a fresh tomato salad. We had too much food on the table already but that was a dish done of us were ashamed to be greedy over. It was eggplant like I’d never had before – and I say this having had the (now second) best eggplant of my life at an agriturismo in Italy.
At the end of the night, we left a little ho hum, knowing that meal would never happen again. That eggplant wouldn’t happen again. PREAM, it’s birthplace, was closing its doors and we were moving onto new adventures. Then at our going away party last week, we learned our favorite neighbors were moving to Seattle, a friend was moving to L.A. Changes. And these are just the ones we know about already, in advance of our departure. But more will undoubtably happen after we depart. My favorite yoga instructor could move on to a different studio, a close friend could become a parent, the Portland housing market could become even more impossible than it already is. More changes.
The reality is that the changes will happen whether we want them to or not. And that’s part of what I’m struggling with the most. Letting go of a place and space and people I love, in pursuit of something different, in pursuit of my own changes. And in turn accepting that they, too, will become something different whether I like it, and whether I’m prepared for it, or not. So I’m trying. I’m doing my best to walk away with arms wide open to what’s ahead while also gracefully (I hope) learning to live with the lack of sameness that will permeate the space that continues to live and breath and evolve without us. I’ll be okay, I think, focused on all the new hellos.
And when we miss this place we call home just a little too much, at least now we know we can still have the eggplant. We’ll always have the eggplant.
- 1 medium-sized eggplant, sliced lengthwise about ⅛-inch thick
- 1 cup of cornstarch
- 5 eggs, beaten
- 3 cups of cornflakes, passed through a grinder until crumbly (but not so much that they become powder)
- 1.5 cups of Panko flakes
- 4 teaspoons of kosher salt or 2 teaspoons of regular table salt
- 2 teaspoons of garlic powder
- 2 teaspoons of onion powder
- 2 teaspoons of freshly cracked pepper
- Canola oil, about 50 ounces
- 4 cups of cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
- 2 teaspoons of balsamic vinegar
- salt and red pepper flakes, to taste
- ¼ pound of soft cheese, such as buffalo mozzarella, regular mozzarella, or burrata
- 1 cup of fresh basil, torn and 2 leaves julienned for garnish
- Soak the eggplant slices in a bowl of ice water for 5 minutes. Remove from bowl and pat completely dry with paper towels. Heat oil in a medium-sized dutch oven or deep fryer to 375 degrees F.
- While oil is heating, pour cornstarch into one medium sized bowl, eggs into another, and cornflakes, panko, salt garlic powder, onion powder, and pepper, into another. Dip eggplant into cornstarch and shake off excess. Then dip in eggs and then cornflake mixture, pressing cornflakes into the eggplant to adhere. Let rest for about 3 minutes, then add to hot oil and cook until golden brown, about 2 minutes, flipping halfway. Use a slotted spoon to remove from oil and set on wire wrack to cool.
- To assemble salad, toss tomatoes with oil, balsamic vinegar, basil, salt and fresh red pepper flakes. Add eggplant to plate, top with cheese, tomato salad and garnish with more julienned basil.