Geezer rock and new recipes
I married music. The respectable man I wed in 1983 was a long-haired punk rocker when we met three years earlier. His band was named for destruction, and its music erupted as a tidal wave of sound from an unfinished practice room with blankets over the exposed wall studs. What allowed me to spend enough time around him in those days had to be the power of love. Because I am a girl who craves quiet.
I appreciate music, but I am not a fan of arena rock. In my teens and twenties, when my peers were rocking out to bands like Led Zeppelin and Rush from the cheap seats far up near the rafters of Capitol Center (remember it?), I wasn’t. I was quietly reading a book somewhere. My music came from albums played on a Sears stereo in my bedroom, at reasonable volume. I once got talked into seeing David Bowie at a massive arena show, which I remember more for the opening act: a strange black-and-white short film by David Lynch at his most eerie and alienated.
Somehow, in my 50s, I have discovered my lost youth. This has a lot to do with the graying of everyone in my age group, including the artists we have supported for decades. Everyone has quieted down. Geezer rock, you might call it.
It also has to do with the intelligence of carrying foam earplugs, and the hope that I won’t need them. And it has to do with choosing shows based not only on the artists, but on the venues. This year, we saw both Fleetwood Mac and the Eagles at John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville.
Great shows, both. One thing about seeing shows in middle age is having the disposable income for good tickets. We sat near enough to Fleetwood Mac for me to study Lindsay Buckingham’s unique finger-picking. We were about as close to the Eagles. Oh, be still my heart; I still have a crush on the bass player, Timothy B. Schmidt.
Of course, being me, I came away from these experiences with a food mission. The closest restaurant to JPJ Arena is Afghan, a cuisine I do not know well. Navigating the menu was a challenge. We told our server to bring us what was best. We feasted on several small plates, and shared two larger ones. I told my husband, “I must learn how to make this.”
My first assignment is Buranee Banjan, a dish of fried eggplant with tomatoes and garlic-yogurt sauce. It was served to us as an appetizer, on a flat plate layered with a mixture of meltingly soft eggplant and tomatoes that had softened and concentrated through cooking, over which the yogurt had been drizzled. It came with a basket of naan.
When I later typed, “Afghan fried eggplant” into my computer search engine, Google delivered 38,000 results. Clearly, this is a traditional recipe for generations of home cooks. I watched a YouTube video and read two or three recipes, to see what is common to all. All recipes begin with peeling the eggplant and salting it in a colander to remove liquid and bitterness. Then they diverge.
Some add onions. Some add peppers. Some top the dish with mint. I will have to play around with the ingredients. This skews toward my strength in the kitchen. I can never follow a recipe, and with this dish, there are too many recipes to choose just one.