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I’m not much of a picky eater. When it comes to food, I’m a pretty reliable opportunist, and there’s not much that I won’t eat. That said, we all do have our preferences. I can count the foods I dislike on one hand, and there are only two things that I absolutely won’t touch: blue veined cheeses of any sort, and tiny little oily fishes, such as anchovies or sardines.

Both of those dislikes can be attributed to the foods having very strong odors and flavors, and as far as vegetables go, I generally stay away from Brussels sprouts, eggplant, and okra – the first because of its flavor, the others because of their texture.

I know that everybody’s palates change over time, though, as we encounter new foods and flavors, so I always try to give foods I don’t care for a second (or 32nd) chance when they cross my path. Whenever there are Brussels sprouts, eggplant or okra around, I dutifully try them, even if I don’t have a whole serving myself.

That’s how I discovered that my dislikes are highly dependent on the context. For example, okra in soup is disgusting on general principle, but it turns out that fried okra battered in cornmeal is phenomenal. Brussels sprouts are too strong for me by themselves, but dress them up with garlic and butter in a casserole and they are rather more than tolerable.

I consider myself something of a foodie, so eggplant is an especially unfortunate thing to dislike, especially when trying to eat vegetarian. Ever notice that when you try to avoid something, it suddenly seems like it’s everywhere?

But what’s not to like about eggplant? They are sleek and shiny and beautiful and maybe even kind of sexy, but there’s just something about the spongy texture (or the slimy texture, depending on how it’s cooked) that I can’t abide.

Friends have tried to woo me with barbecued eggplant, eggplant lasagna, eggplant parmesan, and homemade baba ganoush, all to no avail. Bites of “amazing” eggplant this or that have been forced upon me in restaurants both Asian and Italian. In my own kitchen, I have tried pressing it, salting it, and soaking it, but — well, it’s still eggplant.

I want to like eggplant though, I truly do. It’s such a popular and versatile recipe ingredient and it’s also really good for you (very high in antioxidants, fiber and B vitamins). So when an eggplant arrived in my Golden Gate Organics box recently, I didn’t sub it out and instead I tried to find a way to enjoy it.

Since I had a few potatoes that were starting to sprout, and I needed to use them up, I went online and looked for recipes that included both potatoes and eggplant. There were dozens to choose from, and I settled on one for garlic mashed potatoes with eggplant from

It was a pretty basic dish, mashing together boiled potatoes and oven-roasted eggplant and garlic and then topping the mash with sautéed onions. It was fantastic, and I would definitely make it again. I might even go out of my way and deliberately buy an eggplant to do it.

I’m pretty sure that my eggplant mashed potatoes are the gateway drug for me to learn to enjoy this beautiful vegetable in its many other incarnations. Blue vein cheeses and tiny little oily fishes, though, are another matter entirely. There is simply not enough context in the world for that.