Gratin d’Aubergines (From I Know How To Cook, Mathiot 1932)
I suppose my bubble of glory had to be burst by something. I wasn’t expecting it to be an aubergine, but aubergines are often unexpected.
Winston Churchill once said “Success is not final, failure is not fatal“. Buoyed by my soufflé, I guess I was expecting all culinary feats to open up before me like lotus flowers. My aubergine gratin was more of a venus flytrap.
But my lesson has been learnt: don’t try to apportion big dish recipes. The gratin should have been three times the size, and if only my brain had also been three times the size, I would have thought to myself pretty early on that what I was doing was ridiculous. Three layers of aubergine and three layers of tomatoey meaty onioniness were reduced to one of each; far too thin and far too sparse… think trying to cook Eastenders’ Max Branning’s hair. Unappealing.
In fact, truth be told, aubergines have never tasted good – salted, left and then washed before frying in oil, they became almost meaty. The tomatoey meaty onioniness was at once deep and slightly sweet. A dusting of dried breadcrumbs and some grated gruyère added texture.
The recurring theme in my French cooking so far is that it tastes delicious but “visually, it lacks elegance and style“. Indeed, when it comes to my presentation, you would be forgiven for thinking I had taken my inspiration from these three.
However, like Winnie said, my failure is not fatal. I live to cook another day.
Can you tell the difference?