Telling our Stories & Grilled Eggplant Salad

Last week, I went back to my university, Saint Lawrence, for a reunion. The photographs of happy smiles on Facebook are a testament to two things. First, a good time was had by all. Second, if anything, we’re better looking today than we were all those years ago. Women of a certain age, we have earned every wrinkle and every gray and white hair and wear them with pride.

Yes, once upon a time, I spent a handful of years at Saint Lawrence with a bunch of wonderful people. Strangers, we came together in the idyllic north country, a stone’s throw from the Canadian border. College is a Neverland of sorts. We were so young, so full of fun but still so serious and, at least in my case, pretending to be brave. Somewhere between orientation and graduation, lifelong bonds were formed. Then and now, we are sisters from other mothers; distance can separate us but it can’t break those ties.

Mostly suburbanites, a few country girls and a couple of city slickers found their way into our mix. After school, we headed back into the real world. There we found love and jobs,  started families or not, and did our best to live good, interesting and meaningful lives. Years later, we are at that age when children are grown. Phones are filled with pictures of adorable grandchildren. Parents are gone or aging and causing frequent worry.

It was a pleasure to reconnect with old friends. All these years later, bonds still hold firm. It was so easy to fall into conversations, silly and serious. It was truly an honor to catch up, listen and learn. An outsider can only guess at the stories behind the many smiling faces in photographs captured throughout the long weekend.

What I learned: more than anything, we are no longer pretending. We are indeed a brave bunch. In spite of distance and years, many of the events that mark our lives are similar. Along with unique experiences, we share a whole bunch of oddly familiar stories. From the happiest of times to the worst of times, we are not alone in our adventures and misadventures. Many of the tales told by these old friends could have been my own.

Maybe it’s the intensity of college days but our bonds are more than a long-ago, short lived common past. Since the day we all drove south after graduation, we have each faced a multitude of successes, trials and tribulations. The years have been filled with love and loss, promotions and layoffs, births and deaths, celebrations and tough times. Both mini and mega, the crises and triumphs we have faced and continue to face are somehow similar. Not down to the nitty-gritty details but there is a familiarity. More than the short time we spent together, we share generational mores and values. We have a natural, you might call it intuitive, empathy for each other’s’ joys, frustrations and sorrows.

Job loss to mental illness, we don’t just murmur a superficial, “Oh, I’m so sorry.” Whether we share an identical story or something only sort of similar or even quite different; we get it. Throughout the weekend, we listened intently, hugged generously and shared openly. There is comfort in knowing you are connected to this wonderful network, this wonderful sisterhood. It was only a long weekend but we headed south smiling, bolstered and ready for whatever comes next.

Here’s to more stories, a great summer and bon appétit!

Grilled Eggplant Salad
Summertime is salad time. Since most local produce is still a few weeks away, grilling the vegetables will intensify the flavors. Enjoy!
Serves 8

About 2 1/2 pounds eggplant, cut in 1/2-inch slices
Olive oil
Kosher salt
1 1/2 pounds cherry or grape tomatoes
About 8 ounces arugula (optional)
4-6 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
2 scallions, thinly sliced
About 1/2 cup roughly chopped or torn mint leaves
About 1/2 cup roughly chopped or torn parsley leaves
4-8 small pitas

Preheat the grill to medium-high.

Brush the eggplant with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill the eggplant for 4-6 minutes per side or until nicely browned and tender. Remove from the grill and when the eggplant is cool enough to handle, chop into bite-size pieces.

Put the tomatoes in a bowl, drizzle with a little olive oil, season with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Put the tomatoes in a grill basket and grill for 4-6 minutes, stirring from time to time.

If you like, brush the pita with a little olive oil. Grill the pita until lightly browned, about 1 minute per side or less. Cut each pita into 4 wedges.

Put the arugula in a deep platter or individual shallow bowls, top with eggplant and tomatoes drizzle with Spicy Green Olive Vinaigrette, sprinkle with feta, scallions and herbs and serve with grilled pita wedges.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

The vinaigrette can be made ahead, covered and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before serving. Store any extra vinaigrette in the refrigerator.

Printer-friendly recipe of this recipe.

One Year Ago – Grilled Salmon & Asparagus Salad
Two Years Ago – Strawberry Tort
Three Years Ago – Grilled Potato Salad
Four Years Ago – Grilled Salmon with Lemon-Herb Quinoa Salad
Five Years Ago – Chocolate-Peanut Butter Tart
Six Years Ago – Salsa Verde
Seven Years Ago – Blueberry Crumb Cake
Eight Years Ago – Peanut-Sesame Dipping Sauce
Nine Years Ago – Strawberry Gelato
Ten Years Ago – Asparagus Soup

Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

With whom will share your stories this summer? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2019

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