It's the flavours: a little curry and turmeric, garlic, and surprising cilantro, all fused together in a rich tomato sauce. The eggplant becomes infused with all this, and its usually icky texture gives way to a pleasant softness.
It's been a busy week, socially at least. One friend from out of town has just left, and two more are camped in my living room for the next three nights. I'm still catching up with my local friends as well after my 5 months of being away. So many wonderful people to see and catch up with, and yet I've been feeling a little needy and wistful the last few days. Partly it's not having work and yet spending a good deal of money because I want to have a good time with my visitors. Partly it's nervousness, because my next job requires more accordion-playing skills than I think I have. Partly it's that little voice that always harangues me when I am not working: You should be creating/practicing/writing/exercising... It's failing to keep up my good eating habits, and not liking my hair, and feeling as if I failed some kind of Date Audition with the guy I saw a couple of times who has completely faded from my life, and... I know: neurotic enough for ya?
Being able to re-create this eggplant dish, which I've had at East Is East a few times, actually made me feel really good, because it actually tasted almost the same as it did at the restaurant, and that's a confidence-booster. Plus I was able to feed my hungry friends when they arrived after their 9-hour drive. They probably didn't feel as ecstatic as I did about eggplant and tomato, but I noticed that pretty soon their bowls were both empty. And my spirits rose.