fairytales for grown ups

My head feels like Dorothy’s house as it’s swirling into the eye of the tornado. This is what New York City does to me. It divides my heart from my mind. This is something I was beginning to realize even before Michael died. In six days it has slowly undone the careful stitches Paris wove into place. For a few weeks my fractured life felt whole again. Going to a new city, embracing a new culture and way of life, gave special meaning to learning a new kind of normal.

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Some people may see this as wanting to escape from reality, but they haven’t walked my path the last 363 days. At times I even find myself in heated disagreement with those who have suffered this kind of traumatic loss. It simply reaffirms that grief is a unique journey, and the path to a peaceful heart is different for everyone.

As my car shuttled down Boulevard Saint Germain last Sunday morning en route to the airport, I knew my departure was not an ending. Leaving Paris was a realization that I need to begin thinking seriously about where the rest of my story will take place. It may seem like a pipedream right now, but as a friend once said to me—nothing is impossible.

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August 7th, 2011 was my poison apple, my stroke of midnight, the beginning of my battle with Maleficent, except my fate is not determined by the kiss of a prince. It is up to me to chart my own course—to plot, plan and yes, even dream big, for a happily ever after.

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Fairytale Eggplant Parmigiana

serves 4 to 6

There’s an amazing variety of eggplants out there, and if you’re close to a farmers’ market now is the time to discover them. I’m quite fond of Japanese eggplants for their creamy, mellow flavor. Last summer I eyed fairytale eggplants but never took the leap to buy them. As I wandered the Union Square farmers’ market last Wednesday, I figured it was time to try something new. It turns out fairytales aren’t just for kids. The prep is easy too, so no need for a fairy godmother with this eggplant. Just remove the stems and slice the bite-sized eggplant in half.

I’ve noted this recipe as serving 4 to 6, and when fleshed out with perhaps some pasta and a salad that is true. If you’re on deadline for a book though, and find that one tiny portion just by itself isn’t enough, you may only get two servings out of this dish.

Extra virgin olive, to coat the pan

13 fairytale eggplants (247 grams), stems trimmed & cut in half

2 cups (500 ml) marinara sauce

1/2 cup (30 grams) freshly grated Pecorino-Romano cheese

Preheat the oven to 425F (220C).

Drizzle some olive oil into a 9-inch glass pie plate, about 2 teaspoons worth. Tilt the dish to swirl it around the bottom and slightly up the sides. Arrange the eggplant, skin side down, in a single-layer in the dish. Evenly pour the marinara sauce on top. Sprinkle the cheese over the sauce.

Bake for 25 minutes, until the eggplant is very tender when pierced with a fork and the cheese is golden. Remove from the oven and let sit for 1 to 2 minutes before serving.

Comments

  • Amanda: Exquisite. Own every page of every chapter, make new ones, crumple the paper, blur the lines with years of laughter. Write in your own hand, right, in your own hand.

  • JulieD: What a beautiful recipe!
    Jennie, I think everyone needs to constantly be reminded that grief is different for everyone as well as the reaction to grief. No one has the right to judge. But I can say something, your grace inspires us all. I mean it. Love you lots!! xoxo

  • Hillary Davis: Dear Jennie,
    Think big. Dream big. Don’t analyze for one moment. If Paris spoke to you, answer her. lol xxx

  • Daphne: Jennie,
    Though you may not feel it, you are an inspiration to us and more importantly, your girls! Thank you for sharing such personal thoughts and emotions with us. I continue to keep you and your famiy in my thoughts & prayers!Your strength is fuel for our souls – one day at a time!

  • Marisa: Last night when I told you my moms specialty are “arancini”, I also wanted to tell you the next best thing she makes is “eggplant parmigiana”, I can’t believe that’s your post today. I know deep in my heart that one day, you and I will be enjoying wine and cheese again talking about happy things. It will happen…..xoxo

  • Maria in NJ: So glad you posted, I was just thinking about you last night and was hoping all was well with your return trip…One never does know where life takes them, some days, no, many days I wish I hadn’t ended up where I am now, in AC,NJ. I’m tired of the casino scene, I mean it did provide a steady income all these years but the closer I get to retirement, I’m just burnt out from the whole thing…the noise, the greed, the people…done with it. You have a chance of a do-over, I know that you long for your live with Mikey back, but that is just not possible, you should do it while your girls are still young…
    About that recipe…yum, I could eat eggplant every day! I love it…I make a very non-traditional eggplant parm, I do not fry my eggplant, I bake it , can’t tell the difference, but yours is sooo easy, its a must try for sure….
    I can’t believe its almost a year since we were all baking a PB pie for Mikey…

  • Tracey Alvernaz: Good Morning Jennie,
    It is good to plan, plot and dream.It is a thread of hope to hold onto, to grasp in times of uncertainty and loss.
    May your dreams be filled with rainbows and sunshine, hope and beauty.
    Tracey

  • Sharyn Dimmick: Wonderful that you could enjoy an experience of wholeness and notice it when it was happening.

  • Jamie (Mama.Mommy.Mom): Jennifer,
    August 7th is my wedding anniversary. I will never think of it, speak of it or celebrate it again without remembering your pain. Though I’ve never experienced a loss like yours, I know I Tuesday is going to be an unimaginably hard day for you, but please know that there are so many people – even those you don’t know – who will be thinking about you and wishing you peace on Tuesday. Hold your girls close, but don’t forget to focus on you too.
    Jamie @ http://www.mamamommymom.com

  • Rose D., Frenchtown, NJ: Wishing you big dreams and a new happily ever after…

  • Cheryl Arkison: I’ve always believed that we are the sum of our experiences, we are not defined by them.
    Giant hugs for the coming days.

  • Elizabeth @ LoneStarsAndStripes.com: You are the captain of your own ship. <3

  • Stephanie: Thinking of you as this big ‘first’ approaches…

  • Linda: Having walked alongside a friend who was widowed young with a toddler daughter, I am very aware that everybody processes and moves forward from a loss in their own way. Learning to support her throught her process, though it might look differently from what I think I would do in her shoes, has broughtht us closer together and broadened my perspective. Thanks for doing that for your readers as well!

  • Susan: That looks so good. I know my farmer’s market will have a lot to offer in the way of eggplant in the coming weeks. I’m going to try it with a vegan cheese.

  • Diane: Dreams can come true….
    I can’t believe it is just a few days from another “first” for you yes a big one !
    Thank you for continuing to share your story your such an inspiration and we will all be here for you..Hugs!

  • Pamela Chiasson: All things ARE possible…wishing you to rediscover your happiness and joy and all good things ..peace

  • minnie@thelady8home: Another beautiful post, and grace under pressure – of an immeasurable kind – leaves me inspired yet again.
    Jenny, you should seriously think about writing a book. You write so beautifully, and you inspire. It would help so many people out there.Maybe the journey for everyone is unique, but a journey it is, and of the most difficult kind ever imaginable to man.
    Love eggplants in any form, and this looks delicious!

  • Stephanie: You’re Parisian trip sounds wonderful. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to go back every year for the decompression it sounds like you received during your visit there? The anniversary of Mikey’s passing is here for you and for your girls to go through; and while each person must deal with supreme grief and guilt (for many, guilt holds hands with grief)in their own way, I hope you are able to find peace and the hope for the future you and your girls want for yourselves.

  • Tammy Hoggatt: This was a beautiful entry as always. I will be thinking of you on Tuesday as you complete your year of “firsts” without Mikey. I’m sure you will deal with it in your own special way as you have this past year. You are unique as is your grief and I’m so glad you understand that…and you realize you don’t have to apologize for how you deal with YOUR loss. I’m so looking forward to hearing of your new beginnings…sounds kind of exciting!

  • Mary: Welcome back, dream big or go home I say. Mary in NY

  • Julie: I am thinking of you this week and wishing you peaceful times with your girls and oh so much love!

  • Tiffany: You GO girl. ;)

  • Rocky Mountain Woman: The one year point was the very hardest for me… stay the course, keep calm and carry on and all that twitter patter….

  • Katia: Exactly, Jennie, seize life!! I wish you and the girls the best, whichever path you decide to take.
    Thank you, for your beautiful writing. I’m very lousy at it myself, so it’s hard for me to express in words everything your words move inside me, everytime I read a new post from you.
    I live on the other side of the planet, but think of you every day. That’s the kind of effect your writing has :)
    Oh, and those eggplants I must try!
    xx
    Katia

  • Mary: I’ve been thinking about you this week and praying peace for you and the girls.

  • Vicky: Jennie, please know that you are a source of inspiration for so many of us that read your posts. I think of you and your girls often and I have cried with you after reading some of your entries. Your writing is so inspiring. Be strong my cyber friend and know that there are many of us in cyberland that think of you everyday!!! Vicky

  • Sally: Your blog found me a year ago and I was humbled by your beautiful request to make peanut butter pie. Since then I have followed your journey and I wanted to reach out as this anniversary nears. I do not have any giant wisdom to offer; just solace in knowing that for what it is worth a stranger will be holding you, and your girls, close in her heart tomorrow. I am certain that there are many other people that will be doing the same. Thank you for sharing your experience, and continuing to do so. The intimate way that you tell your story through your recipes and your relationship with food is truly inspiring. I look forward to buying your cookbook, and allowing your talent and creativity to grace my life, and my table for years to come.

  • IlinaP: Grief is a unique journey for everyone, and there is no room for judgement. Leap where your heart takes you. Your brain will follow.

  • Carrie: Sending lots of hugs today because words would never be enough.

  • Nicholle: Jennie,
    Here it is, August 7. A day that I know has come all too soon for you. I’ve thought of you and prayed for you all morning. It doesn’t matter that we’ve never met and that we live thousands of miles apart – I wish I could hug you and be your shoulder to cry on. I think of you so often and hope that you are able to feel some sort of hope with each new day with your beautiful girls. <3
    ~Nicholle

  • Laura/DaPFG: <3 i will make this, and think of you. doubting i can find fairytale eggplant here, but the sentiment will be the same nonetheless. take care.

  • Nancy Shampo: Hi Jennie, I know that your path right now is very difficult. I hope that one day you will find things easier. I guess I am just saying that, I empathize with your sorrow, and your anger (if indeed that is what you are feeling). Many of us say well meaning things in hope that they will bring comfort, but that is not always the result. What you feel is your right to feel and I wish all the best for you and your girls. Blessings!

  • maria: Jennie,
    Yes, dream big! I pray you find your happily ever after.
    xo Maria

  • Debbi: Always enjoy your posts. I agree with you, next time go to Italy, just for you. Like the others here I will be thinking of you especially Tuesday

  • Lola: Your strength amazes me. I was lucky enough to find a love like yours and can’t imagine what you are going through. From what I’ve read my religious beliefs mirror yours; with that being said I know that he sees all the firsts and seconds ….and so on..he’s watching over you and your girls…keep watching for the “signs” they will make your heart smile.

  • Laura: I stopped to pay respect and let you know that you have one more stranger in CA thinking of you and your two girls as you mark a year since Mikey’s passing.
    May you find peace.
    Thinking of you,
    Laura

  • Bevi: Jennie, I made this eggplant parm tonight and it was delicious! I had some Hazan tomato sauce in the freezer, and was able to find fairy tale eggplants at the greenmarket, so this was a cinch to make. Thanks for a great dish, and thanks for continuing to be an inspiration. It’s almost time for me to make your tomato jam. I also wanted you to know that my niece made the dry rub from your rib recipe, and it was her wedding favor – all 170 jars of it! It is so good on chicken as well as steak and ribs.
    JP’s Note: so glad you’re all enjoying the spice rub :)

  • Rich Gavina: I’ve been tweeting your blog post all week. I have to say, it’s incredible how you continue to persevere despite what has happened to you and your daughters. I hope some of my followers have come here and feel the same inspiration I felt when I first read it. I wish you peace and love as you move forward in your life. No matter what, our loved ones will always be by our side because our memories of them will transcend beyond our lifetimes.

  • Jen: I am so touched by your beautiful writing. It is a gift that you are so open to sharing yourself with us! The recipes are a deluxe bonus! I made this today with regular sized eggplants from my CSA and it was delicious. I put it over some leftover pasta and topped it with some spicy arugula and mustard greens from Evolutionary Organics at GAP farmer’s market this morning. I saw some fairy tale’s there and thought of you. Thanks for the inspiration.

  • jennie: I stumbled upon your blog recently. This is a beautiful post and a wonderful recipe. I confess that I substituted regular, supermarket-variety eggplant. I sliced them and did two layers in the pie dish, with a little extra olive oil and some Italian seasoning over each layer. Simple & delicious.

  • Weekly Newsletter 06-11-13 | theveggiebin: [...] Fairy Tale Eggplant Parmigiana [...]

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