Eggplant in a Pan
Updated: Sep 9
By Jasmine Deanne Andrews
The Dey’s conquered the Pashas of the Ottoman Empire in 1671 and ruled for One hundred and fifty-nine years until they were overthrown by the French in 1830. In the aftermath of the conquest and scattering of this caliphate state, my great great Grandfather, Joseph Dey appeared in the United States census of 1850.
Photograph: My great-great grandparents: Apollos Day and Julia Riddick
As a man with origins from a Turkish empire that spanned into the North African countries of Algeria, Liberia, and Southeastern Europe, his complexion would make it easy for him to blend into pre Civil War America as a white man, while the darker-skinned Dey’s were considered mulattos.
In the next generations, through intermarriage with Native Indians and blacks, the Dey’s were absorbed into Black communities. With the assimilation into this new culture came the traditional Soul Food diet of previously enslaved Blacks.
The pig, formally reviled by the Dey rulers, now became the central focus of meals with flavored smoked ham, fatback, chitterlings, and pork sausages. The Dey’s on both the "white" and "colored" side of the family acquired land in rural Virginia and North Carolina. On the "white’" side of the Dey family, John B. Dey donated land in Princess Anne County, currently known as Virginia Beach, to build a school that now bears his name, John B. Dey Elementary.
Photograph: My grandfather: Joseph Lewis Dey
Left picture: my grandfather with his brother Otha Dey
My Grandfather, Joseph Lewis Dey, on the colored side, famously raised pigs on his farm. He was a pillar in the Black community. At the same time, he was still an outsider in many ways. Although the family had long put away their roots in the Turkish Empire and accepted Jesus in the Southern Baptist tradition, resentment lingered over the Dey’s prosperity. Their education and land ownership were not seen as the restitution of an exiled leader in a foreign land, but a privilege afforded by light skin and close kinship to the fair Dey’s who were accepted as white.
This conflict over colorism and assumed financial privilege trickled down into my generation where I was never considered “Black enough” in the community. The problem grew deeper when I rejected the high cholesterol, high fat, and diabetes-inducing traditionally Black Soul Food diet for a more plant-based diet.
Once again the pig became reviled, but not for the Muslim beliefs, but because Jesus (Yeshua) was Jewish and he never ate swine. In pursuit of this new healthy way of eating I had to find ways to prepare my own food. I experimented in the kitchen until I found my own special recipe,
Eggplant in a Pan
The recipe requires:
1 large firm eggplant
2 organic eggs
100% whole wheat flour for breading the eggplant
Peanut oil (for frying)
1 package of chopped frozen spinach
Organic Tomato Sauce
1 teaspoon of Nutmeg
A Pinch of salt
Rosemary (measurement according to one’s preference)
Sage (measurement according to one’s preference)
1 teaspoon of lemon extract
First, peel the eggplant and cut it into ½ vertical slices.
Next, whip the two eggs in a plate and add a pinch of salt, a liberal amount of rosemary and sage, with a teaspoon of lemon exact.
Then, on a separate plate measure out 1 cup of whole wheat flour.
In a large frying pan, warm ¼ depth of peanut oil. Off to the side, thaw the frozen spinach in a small pot on top of the stove. Add one teaspoon of nutmeg to the spinach to create a slightly sweetened flavor to counterbalance the earthy taste of the spinach.
Once the oil in the frying pan is hot, dip the slices of eggplant in the egg and coat it in the flour. Then, lightly fry the eggplant on both sides until it is a golden color.
Afterward, layer the cooked eggplant slices in a pan and pour tomato sauce on top. For the center layer spread the spinach over the sauce and then top off the layers with the rest of the eggplant slices and sauce. Sometimes I may add a sprinkle of mozzarella cheese for the top layer, depending on my level of dairy intake for that week. Then, I bake the eggplant in the oven for ten minutes.
When it is done, the eggplant becomes a flavorful main course with a rich mixture of herbs and a slight zesty taste brought out by the lemon extract. However, the best time to eat this dish is summer, with an eggplant that is fresh from the garden and tomatoes ripened directly from the vine. An eggplant directly from the backyard garden increases in flavor by 1,000%. The peeling is so tender that it does not have to be removed for the recipe. When sliced, a garden-fresh eggplant permeates with a fruity scent and clear droplets of water drip on the inside.
Then when layered with sliced garden tomatoes, the eggplant in a pan takes a new life.
The taste is unique to the summers of my college years when I discovered the recipe. Although I can appreciate various recipes passed down from my grandparents and great grandparents many of them are linked to a history of slavery, conquest, and exile. At the time that I invented this recipe, I was a woman living independently in the house by myself, something that would have never occurred in the Ottoman empire or in the Southern Black community of my Grandfather’s time.
Rather than eat by traditions handed down from an ongoing cycle of conquest and subjugation, I have peace on the land where I live.
My name is Jasmine Deanne Andrews, bearing the initials of my family name from my mother, Jeanette Dey Andrews, but as the first of my name, I created my own family recipe. I cultivated the land and planted seeds, free from the influence of people who would carelessly cut down what I planted or make demands on my time to fit into their traditions. From those seeds came my recipe Eggplant in a Pan which tastes like freedom.
My mama, Jeanette Dey Andrews
At the Messanic congregation my mother attended women were permitted to carry the Torah. In this picture, she is participating in the Torah service.
On my mother's mother's side of the family, the Coplands, have blood ties to a Jewish man. However, he denied his black children in court from my great great grandmother Freelove.
Bio: Jasmine Deanne Andrews
Jasmine Deanne Andrews is a screenwriter, director, and the published author of Sullied Bride. As the Communication Specialist for Transitions Family Violence Services she created a series of short films that raise awareness for domestic violence.
Her IMdb credit includes the 2019 feature film The Curse of EVE, where she won in the category of Best Director in the World Music and Independent Film Festival (WMIFF). She is an award winning screenwriter, receiving 2nd place in the 2018-2019 Virginia Production Alliance Screenwriting Competition for Natalie’s Abortion. Jasmine is passionate about women’s issues and is devoted to filmmaking as an art. She is deeply involved in the community and created her production company, Sullied Bride Productions, in order to give women the opportunity to, “Tell our stories ourselves.”
The Curse of EVE is now Streaming of Amazon Prime. Prime Members can watch for FREE!