Long before the ponds were put in, the property was still home to a gregarious population of raccoons, due to the small seasonal stream that cuts the western end of our land. Most particularly, a mother coon would always set up stakes in our area and rear her brood to wash their scavenged tidbits in our birdbath and roll our firewood across the porch in search of mice.
Baby coons are a lot of trouble. Mama always has a lot on her scary, leathery little hands. Usually two to three kits at a time, brimming with her own casual greed and entitled curiosity but without — yet — her seasoned edge of belligerent caution, they tumble and squabble, wander and sneak and thieve their way through summer’s kithood until they disperse to independent mischiefs and leave their mother with a brief respite before she’s thrust back into the whole ordeal again (and that’s another story right there…).
This year, the local mama coon has been blessed with quadruplets.
Needless to say, the cameras have been providing plenty of schadenfreude over the last few months.
That nocturnal birds eat at night is a pretty straightforward piece of knowledge — awake at night, ergo eating at night.
It’s also pretty clear to anyone who finds a large dropping on their car in the morning that wasn’t there the evening before that other functions of life have to happen in the hours in which we sleep or stumble into things as well.
It’s funny how surprising it was to me to be confronted with the fact that owls — as of course they must do — also bathe at night.
Or at least very solid population replacement. We see them all the time because they are pretty comfy here and used to us, just scooting around nibbling grasses and fighting the ducks (I gotta see if I have photos of that to share — hilarious bunny sass…). The funny thing is how infrequently they appear on the wildlife cameras, and when they do, they’re invariably being rather sneaky.
When we first put out our wildlife camera over the big pond’s north bog, we quickly found that aside from the oppressive scourge of the querulous ducks, raccoons are our most frequent visitors.
The story they present is also generally a much more compelling one than the ducks’ — they both have intrigue, romance, action and comedy, but when you’ve watched ducks go back and forth and back and forth and back and forth in petty squabbles for the zillionth time, you come to respect the way the coons economize their time.
The ducks take the whole day to execute their drama, but the raccoons squeeze it all into night visits lasting only a few minutes, perhaps a quarter of an hour. Or perhaps only the time it takes to capture a single, perfect picture.
We viewed the latest batch of wildlife camera photos the other day and were treated to a stop-motion movie of young coyote antics in the back of the little pond. Every year, we’ve only had the evidence of crepuscular play, so it’s nice to finally get an idea of what shenanigans resulted in the traces left for us (I refer you to the episode of the Great Snake Vanishment). Critically, we gleaned important clues in the mystery of how the hose that tops up the ponds from the well got kinked; 12 hours we put the station on, and the pond level got lower! Puppies, y’know?
Don’t get me wrong, I think they is one fine looking piece of … fruit? vegetable? alien pod? whatever. And so much variety in shape, size, colour, etc., that the eggplant area of my life is delightfully well-spiced (you know, ‘variety is the spice of life‘…. Okay). I dig it.
But … they also seem kinda poisonous, and like, what’s up with being the texture of wet packing foam fresh and like the lovechild of a mushroom and a whelk when cooked? I see you decided to go with ‘slippery’. Well played Mme. Aubergine, well played.
It’s taken me a long time, an exercise of my palatal boundaries (aging, as Shakespeare noted, does play dickey with our tastes), and an interest in slaking my mother’s insane hunger for eggplant to reach parley with this ‘edible’.
I’ve disCOVered … it’s quite nice. Mixed with other stuff. Cooked like, a lot, usually with spices. Hey, does everybody want a bouquet of only baby’s breath? No. I like my textures diverse, and my baba ganoush like, 90% pita chip.
To get to the point, I composed this delish eggplant recipe with reference to Almost Turkish Recipes’ Vegeterian Eggplant Stew (Etsiz Patlican Güveç) and Taste.com’s Beef and Eggplant Stew and a hearty helping of rugged individualism. It came out preh-tay awesome, I am required by inherent truthfulness to say. Diane loves it for its rich layers of flavour and healthy, hearty vegetabliness that make it the perfect combination of comforting and exotic. There’s something for everyone in there! Plus, you can stroke some more hash marks into your summer “Zucchinis/Eggplants/Tomatoes ENDED” tally with a sauce-stained smile once you’ve roused yourself from your stewy food-coma.
Celebrate the small victories.
(Mme. Aubergine can celebrate a gracious concession from one former eggplant separatist.)
1½ cups broth (I have used leftover broth from making seitan before, or veggie broth)
1 tbsp. sesame oil, more or less
1 tbsp. olive oil, more or less
Black Pepper to taste
[Optional additional spices, in any combination: ½ tsp. ground ginger, 1 tsp turmeric, 1 tsp. ground paprika, Touch of chili/pepper of some sort]
Use vegetable peeler to stripe the eggplant and zucchini lengthwise. Chop into ~ 1 in. pieces, or to preference (eggplant will shrink in cooking, so can leave larger chunks).
Chop potatoes smaller (1/2") to keep cooking time down.
Heat a large pan (I prefer to use our flat-bottomed wok) on high until very hot.
Toss in eggplant and zucchini as well as potatoes and seitan and allow to sear, stirring on and off to prevent burning.
Drizzle some sesame oil and/or olive oil around the edges of the pan to stop the searing and allow the veggies and seitan to begin to fry.
When seitan begins to brown a bit, turn down the heat and add the onion and garlic. Cook, stirring, until onions are browning (don't allow garlic to burn, as it cooks faster than onion).
Add spices and ketchup, and stir on medium-low for a few moments to fully incorporate.
Pour in broth and stir well.
Cover, and set to simmer for 30 min. If it's looking too soupy towards the end, remove the cover and raise the heat until it's less liquidy, but it should be like a thick stew.
Serve with rice or couscous.
We count on the excellent leftovers, so I always make extra, but it is filling so portion size may be smaller for some. May also be made a few hours early, left in the pan on the stove and reheated to serve. For seitan recipe see Diane's post: http://www.vegetariat.com/2015/01/seitan/.