There is a tendency on food blogs (and their accompanying social media accounts) to present the best possible moments to the world: a brilliantly-hued smoothie bowl, a gorgeous scoop of ice cream, a story about finding the perfect tomato at the farmer's market. The less than stellar moments—the frozen veggie burger with a side of leftover pasta, the batch of candy that refused to set, the day when everything went so wrong that dinner was a bowl of popcorn and a large glass of wine—those moments don't make the cut. And that's fine. It's fine to memorialize the great things and overlook the mediocre. The problem is when we compare our realities to others' highlight reels and become convinced that everyone else in the world (or at least in our Instagram feeds) is more successful and happier and eats better breakfasts.
Behind the scenes, behind the chipper posts and carefully staged food photography, this summer has been stressful. I've been feeling overwhelmed by life, by my work and my freelance writing and some personal stuff. It got to the the point where we ate halushki two weeks in a row, because I didn't have the capacity to come up with something more interesting to do with CSA cabbage. I will grant you that this sounds like a silly example of emotional turmoil. But when you're a food blogger, when your life revolves around mealtimes and CSA season is the highlight of your year, it's sad when cooking just becomes another chore.
Life is better now, partly thanks to a long weekend in Winnipeg that gave me some distance from my issues and the motivation to make some needed changes. I've switched up my running routine. Mike and I are dedicating Fridays to date night. I'm making more realistic weekend to-do lists instead of frantically trying to cram in everything. I've gotten back on track with my freelance work. I re-read Bird by Bird. I started doing things for fun again, instead of for the sake of generating blog content: going out to restaurants without the intention of posting a review, taking day trips without plans to write a destination guide, and eating delicious things without posting photos on Instagram.
And I'm starting to love cooking again. Last week, some CSA eggplants that had been languishing in the refrigerator became a spread inspired by a date night at It's Greek to Me—before ordering the restaurant's roasted eggplant spread, I had no idea that eggplant could taste so good. Roasting gives a smoky depth to eggplant, mellows out the garlic, and sweetens the onion. The finished spread glides across your tongue, perfect as a dip for cucumbers, zucchini, and bell peppers, or spread on bread or pitas. This recipe makes a fairly large batch—about two cups of spread—but it keeps well in the refrigerator.
I've learned this summer that life isn't a simple forward trajectory. Sometimes you find yourself careening off course, or stalled in the shoulder, or making a sudden U-turn. Date night and routines and eggplant spread won't save me from future bumps in the road. But it feels good to be driving in the right direction again.
Adapted from the recipe by Ina Garten
Yield: about 2 cups of spread
- 2 medium eggplants, cut into 1/2 inch pieces (about 8 cups)
- 1 large onion, cut into 1/2 pieces (about 4 cups)
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
In a large bowl, toss eggplant and onion pieces with garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread vegetables in a single layer on a large baking sheet.
Roast for 30 minutes, stirring halfway through to loosen from the pan, or until vegetables are lightly browned and tender.
Process roasted vegetables in a food processor until smooth, in batches if needed. Mix in the lemon juice.