The summer her mother died, the garden bloomed as never before.
Pinkie is on the back porch with her friend. A spread of green topped with yellow – barn flowers, sunflowers, and gold finches flitting among them – lies before them.
“It was a life worth living, certainly, though not without betrayal,” Pinkie says.
“Betrayal?” he asks.
“Certainly. Though it may be that betrayal was the right decision.”
They step down and walk among the plants in the lingering heat.
“I am impressed,” Pinkie says. “And you say the sunflowers are volunteers.”
“Yes. They spring from the earth on their own. Food for the bees. Food for the birds. Unintended, yet welcome.”
“Like this,” Pinkie says, raising hand to capture the bit of the sea on her cheek and raises it to the light.
He doesn’t answer but points to his garden pride, a pair of egg plants only moderately impacted by insect pests.
“They’re the best I’ve ever grown. Most years, I harvest a handful of fruit. This year I’ve made Baba Ghanoush five times and I’m about to make the sixth batch.”
“I think I may have bought some a few weeks back,” Pinkie says.
“It’s nothing like what you can make yourself,” he says. “You need to start with quality eggplants, freshly picked. Round and long, it doesn’t really matter.”
Fortunately, the charcoal-fired barbecue is still hot.
Pinkie watches as he snips three large eggplant, the long type, and follows him to the kitchen where he brushes them with some olive oil. Then, back to the barbecue where he bakes them beyond the direct heat.
“You flip them a time or two, wait till they’re soft. Doesn’t take long, a matter of a few minutes. Then take them off the heat and peel away the skin. This is enough for close to two cups.”
“Is that it?” Pinkie asks.
“There’s more. Eggplant on its own, barbecued or not, is pretty bland. You add a clove or three of fresh garlic – it’s amazing this time of year – along with a splash of olive oil, splash of fresh lemon, a generous dollop of tahini, a bit of heat and some fresh parsley, if you have it.”
Pinkie watches as he steps down to gather the final ingredients. A single jalapeno pepper and a handful of curly parsley.
“I imagine there’s as many variations as cooks in the Middle East,” he says. “A bit of chili powder will work instead of the pepper. And you can use peanut butter instead of tahini but tahini is better. It’s ground sesame seeds.”
“Now you mush it together?”
“That’s right. I use a handheld blender.”
“I suppose you serve it on crackers.”
“That’s just about what I’m about to do, Pinkie. Crackers are fine but if you’re a traditionalist, pita bread is the way to go or perhaps spread it on pieces of naan bread, but that would take more than what we have here.”
“You could grow more eggplant next year.”
“Now that would be pushing my luck, Pinkie.” ◊