Fred Sauceman has taught “The Foodways of Appalachia” at ETSU since the fall of 2005. It was the first course of its kind ever created in the nation. This is given out to the class on the first meeting, as an example of an “heirloom recipe.” Finding such a recipe and accompanying story on their own is the first assignment for students in the class. From those submissions, we created this evolving cookbook.
This recipe has 1960s written all over it, from the reliance on Ritz crackers to the silver knife used to check for doneness. The original source is a publication called Ford Times, once published by the motor company. My Uncle Grover Graves only drove Fords. I inherited the recipe from a lady named Trula Bailey, who worked in the home of my aunt and uncle in Athens, Tennessee, for over 50 years. Eggplant was exotic and mysterious to me as a child growing up in the 1960s, and the deep purple color still is. Trula was the first person ever to serve it to me, and she gave me my first mushroom, too. She died in the winter of 2002, but her visage presides, in watercolor, over my dining room, as her outstretched hand offers guests one of her incomparable, irresistible, and irreproducible whole wheat muffins.
1 large eggplant, split lengthwise
2 eggs, well-beaten
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup milk
1 cup celery, chopped
½ cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
¼ cup onion, chopped
1 cup Ritz crackers, rolled, plus extra for topping
3 ounces butter
Scoop insides from eggplant and cook in salted water until tender. Drain, chop, and season with salt and pepper. Cook celery and onion in butter until tender. Add with remaining ingredients to eggplant and stir well. Spoon into eggplant shells and place in baking dish. Sprinkle top with additional cracker crumbs. Bake one hour in 350° oven, or until a silver knife comes out clean. Serves 4.