When I saw that this week's Salon Kitchen Challenge was eggplant, I knew right away what my story would be. Travel back in time with me a few years...
It was the summer of 2004 in Atlanta. It was hot. It was humid. I was 7 1/2 months pregnant. I had taken to eating lunch at my desk, then spending my lunch hour running out to grab a frozen lemonade or a frosty, sitting in the parking lot at work and eating it, then taking a nap in the car for 45 minutes with the air conditioner blasting. My feet were so swollen my skin actually pinched from stretching. It was hot. H-O-T hot.
Around the 7 1/2 month mark, I started having some contractions, and it was determined that I was in pre-term labor. I spent the next three weeks on the couch with my cat, taking medicine 6 times a day to stop the contractions and keep my bun in the oven a little longer.
One night my husband and I were watching a movie, and I realized I hadn't felt the baby move all day. We called the doctor, who suggested several things to try that might "stir him up" a little. Nothing worked, so they suggested we go in to the hospital to get checked out, just for peace of mind. Turns out the little buggar was holding tightly to his umbilical cord, cutting off oxygen to himself. The doctor on call thought he had resolved the problem, but just as they were about to discharge me and send me home for the night, the baby's heart rate dropped dramatically. Labor was induced, problems ensued, and I was put to sleep for an emergency c-section. I didn't meet my baby until he was 5 hours old, but all was okay. Just two very shaken parents who hadn't been expecting to be parents until mid-September, and here it was early August. Yipes.
I told my husband that I hoped our baby was a good one, because I was never doing that again.
Never say never. Twenty-six months later I was 37 weeks pregnant. Uncharted territory (Alex had been born at 35 weeks). I was determined to go into normal labor and deliver this baby the "regular way." The first c-section had been difficult to recover from, and I was determined not to go through that again. My doctor was willing to let me try things my way, as long as I didn't go past my due date. I wasn't worried. I had gone into preterm labor with the first baby. There was no way this one would go full term. Four weeks out from my due date, I started taking walks and doing jumping jacks.
It was early October. My two-year-old was going to be a fireman for Halloween, so we decided the new baby would be a dalmation. I hand sewed all the little black felt spots onto the white onesie, pants, socks, and mittens. I sewed little black ears onto the white cap. Everything was ready. Still not a contraction to be felt.
Three weeks out, I started to worry a little. No C-section for me. Nosiree. I tried more methods of inducing labor. No dice.
We went to eat dinner at our favorite Italian restaurant one night, and I noticed on the wall that there were pictures of babies wearing "Scalini's Baby Club" shirts. I inquired and was informed that the restaurant's eggplant parmesan was famous for inducing labor. If a mom-to-be was more than 37 weeks pregnant and ate the eggplant, then delivered within 3 days, she could bring her receipt back and get a gift card to the restaurant, a t-shirt for the baby, and a picture on the wall. I wanted to be in that club.
I ate the eggplant. I stayed up all night with heartburn from the spicy marinara. I took walks. I put ice on my belly where the baby's feet were, encouraging him to squirm away and drop down. I did more jumping jacks.
Three days later, we were back for more eggplant. Repeat previous paragraph.
Three days after that, more eggplant. My husband and parents started to wonder if I had lost my mind. No -- the eggplant was good, it meant I didn't have to cook, and I was sure that eventually, it would work. Nope. We ate at the restaurant every three days for 18 days (that's 6 orders of eggplant parmesan). Halloween came along and I put on my giant orange pumpkin shirt, and tearfully packed the dalmation suit away. I walked the entire neighborhood with my little fireman while we trick-or-treated. Still no baby.
It dawned on me that perhaps my son had left a note in utero for his future siblings: "Stay put. They'll come and get you." My husband made references to a sign posted in a restaurant we frequent: "Hippies use side door."
November 2, my due date, came along. I was not happy that we hadn't managed to get the baby to come on his own. I wasn't looking forward to the c-section. I swore off eggplant parmesan for all eternity. But, as it turns out, scheduled c-sections, in which mom is awake and dad is allowed in the room, aren't so bad. Babies are babies, no matter which door they use (although this son is a little prone to flip flops and a peaceful attitude). And eggplant parmesan tastes good again a few months later, even after you've sworn it off.
But for the record, I'd like to say that Eggplant Does Not Induce Labor, no matter what the restaurant may try to tell you.
Good eggplant parmesan recipes are easy to find, so I decided to branch out a little and give you my take on my other favorite at Scalini's (the one I eat there when I'm not with child).
1 lb lasagna noodles, cooked according to package directions
Your favorite sauce (you'll need about 4 cups. I like to use an alfredo sauce and add 2 cans of diced tomatoes to it, which has a terrific flavor. A good marinara is great with this too, though.)
2 medium zucchini
2 Japanese eggplants (or one of the larger Italian ones)
8 oz baby portabella mushrooms (white button mushrooms are fine, too)
16 oz cottage cheese
8 oz ricotta cheese
2 cups shredded mozzarella
A large handful of fresh basil
Thinly slice all of the vegetables lengthwise (use a mandolin if you have one). Mix cottage cheese, ricotta, and egg in a large bowl. Add a little salt and pepper. In a 9x13 pan, layer sauce, then noodles, a cheese mixture, zucchini, eggplant, mushrooms, and several torn basil leaves. Repeat twice for three good layers. Add a little more sauce to the top. Bake at 350 for about 45 minutes. After 45 minutes, add the shredded mozarella to the top and bake for another 15-20 minutes. Remove from oven and let rest for 20 minutes before cutting it to help it hold together. Serves about 8 people.
(c) 2010 Lisa Kuebler