Where else but in Kentucky could I be nostalgic about a 105° heat index? It was a timely change of venue. For me at least. After last night's bitter outcome in Concord, it was a gift to rise with first light and hightail it to New Hampshire to catch a plane to Louisville. That would be Lu-vul, if you have the proper come froms.
It is hot here. Hot. But the people are so in-your-face friendly, telling you, a complete stranger, their life histories in exchange for your business at the check-out counter or the transmission shop, that the weather pales beside the warmth coming off the locals. It is odd. I can remember coming back to Kentucky, where I grew up, when my parents still lived here and I considered myself a transplanted Easterner. Living in New York City you quickly learn that eye contact is a personal affront, sometimes worse, a threat punishable by spit or curse or crossing the street in avoidance. But here in Kentucky and, really, in the South generally, everyone's you best bud, even if you've never laid eyes on them before. And will never set orbs on them again. It is unnerving to a Yank to find all the barriers that protect one from direction social interaction torn down, obliterated by cheerfulness.
Perhaps I should explain what I'm doing here. No, I did not run away from home. Indeed I hated abandoning Pete the day after our shattering disappointment. But a date is a date. And I have a date with a godchild. My good ole friend Nancy's daughter Lauren, who is getting married this fall. Which calls for a bridal shower. That's what godmother's do, right? Nancy and I were also going to sneak in a Four Tops concert as a nod to our misspent youth (the time I sang with them at Centre College, by way of example) but it was cancelled probably, we figure, because we accounted for the entire advanced sales.
Tonight we dined at Claudia Sanders, daughter of the colonel, in Simpsonville. Fried chicken, greasy beans, corn pudding, mock oysters (see recipe — a specialty at Claudia's).
Here's the recipe for Mock Oysters
2 med. sized eggplants, peeled and cut into 1/2" cubes
1 lb. box Saltines, broken into course crumbs
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 C butter
1 pint Half & Half
Soak the eggplant about 8 hours in salted water. Remove eggplant pieces from the water. In cooking pot cover eggplant with fresh, slightly salted water. Cook over med. heat for about 20 min. or until tender. Drain. Pre-heat oven to 350°. Line bottom of 2 qt. casserole with 1/3 Saltine cracker crumbs. Cover with 2 C eggplant. Season with half the salt and half the pepper. Cut half the butter in to small pieces and dot on top. Cover this with 1/2 of the remaining cracker crumbs. Add remaining 2 C eggplant. Season with remaining S&P. Cover with remaining crumbs. Cut remaining butter in pieces and sprinkle on top. Pour in enough Half & Half to cover (it may not require the entire pint). Back 1 hr. or until top layer is brown. Serves 8. (1 serving = 455 calories & 42% of sodium RDA).
Reputed to be the best thing that every happened to eggplant. Eat it if you dare. I didn't.
Note: Seventeen years ago today I was med-EVac'ed off Nantucket, paralyzed from the rib cage down on my right side. Every year I note the anniversary of the day my life was rearranged.
Truffle: Nancy. Best friend since the 9th grade. We swooned together over 'Moon River'; held a memorial service for Chirpy the canary; and sold handmade (by her mother) cummerbunds and pound cakes (baked by her mother) at school to raise money so she could come to Sanibel with me and my parents. And so many more memories shared.
Quote of the day: "The antidote for fifty enemies is one friend." (Aristotle)