Friday, May 29, 2009

Pasta with Eggplant, Zucchini, and Tomatoes, Plus a Very Important Question

(Readers! Leigh of Veggie Might fame is looking for suggestions for future columns. If you can buzz in with a few ideas, 'twould be ever so lovely. Woot!)

Normally, this is where we talk about food. But earlier this week, I had a dream. I was in the dream as myself, and a man – I couldn’t really see his face – asked me a clear, pointed question that I considered very seriously, but could not answer. Since then, I’ve spent my waking hours pondering the ins and outs of the inquiry, with no definitive conclusion.

That question was this: “Is Frankenstein technically a zombie?”

Compared to queries like “What is the soul?” and “Why is the sky blue?” it’s relatively minor, but SWEET BEA ARTHUR the dang thing’s been killing me. You can argue it every which way, and I’m borderline convinced there’s no real solution.

I’m tempted to say yes, Frankenstein IS a zombie, as he is reanimated tissue – a dead guy brought back to semi-life through artificial, somewhat supernatural means. His only real pastime is lurching, and while he doesn’t quite seem homicidal (as zombies naturally are), the possibility for destruction is always there. Essentially, he’s a mindless corpse, which is the very definition of a zombie.

The Husband-Elect argues that Frankenstein has a beating heart and a borderline working brain, making him fundamentally alive. (Zombies being mostly dead, with organ activity necessary only for movement.) Furthermore, he says the Monster can be killed, where as zombies must be chopped into itty-bitty pieces to end their terrible quest for nourishment. Finally, H-E claims Frankie DOES, in fact, have human qualities that separate him from the shuffling hordes. His exact quote: “He craves knowledge, not brains.”

So … I don’t know. I can see both points, and it’s making me crazy. Readers, do you have any light to shine here? Because I’ll sleep better knowing one way or the other.

With that done, let’s get to the food: Serious Eats' Pasta with Eggplant, Zucchini, and Tomatoes is a tasty, simple Italian dish with deep flavor developed quickly. It makes good use of in-season vegetables, and the sauce can be altered any number of ways to fit your liking. If you should give it a shot, know the following:

1) To be able to cut back on the olive oil, I used a nonstick skillet. If you use a non-nonstick skillet, more fat might have to be involved to prevent burning.

2) After 15 minutes sautéing by themselves, my eggplant and zucchini were mostly cooked, but could have used a little more time. That’s noted in the directions.

3) We got two dinners and two office lunches out of this, so I think it could definitely make four separate meals. For heartier eaters, the three portions are plentiful.

4) Both Frankenstein and zombies would enjoy the dish, though they might prefer it with a side of brains.

And that’s it for the week. Hope y’all have a lovely weekend filled with summer vegetables and deep philosophical questions about fictional monsters. Really, it’s the only way to live. (To LIIIIIIIIIIIIVE!)

Pasta with Eggplant, Zucchini, and Tomatoes
Serves 3 to 4
Adapted from Serious Eats.

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (vegetable oil also acceptable)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 can (28-ounce) crushed tomatoes
4 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons dried oregano (or Italian Seasoning, though beware of rosemary sticks)
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 pound eggplant, ends removed and chopped into 1-inch cubes
1/2 pound zucchini, ends removed, sliced into 1-inch slices
3/4 pound pasta
Salt and black pepper
1/4 cup parmesan

1) In a medium pot, heat 1/2 tablespoon oil over medium heat. Add garlic. Cook 30 to 60 seconds, until you can smell it. Add tomatoes, parsley, oregano, red pepper flakes, and a little salt and pepper. Boil. Once it's boiling, drop heat to medium-low and simmer 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

2) While that's happening, in a separate large, nonstick skillet, heat remaining oil over medium-high heat. Add eggplant, zucchini, and a little salt and pepper. Cook until the veggies are a bit browned and softening up, 15 to 20 minutes.

3) Pour tomato sauce into eggplant mixture. Cook 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. If it starts to dry out, add pasta water. About that pasta...

4) While the sauce and eggplant mixture is coming together, cook pasta in salted water until al dente. Drain.

5) When tomato/eggplant mixture is done, pour pasta in a large bowl. Pour tomato/eggplant mixture on top of it. Top with cheese.

Approximate Calories, Fat, and Price per Serving
Three servings: 658 calories, 14.4 g fat, $1.67
Four servings: 493 calories, 10.8 g fat, $1.25

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil: 239 calories, 27 g fat, $0.23
2 cloves garlic, chopped: 9 calories, 0 g fat, $0.10
1 can (28-ounce) crushed tomatoes: 254 calories, 2.4 g fat, $1.39
4 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped: 5 calories, 0.1 g fat, $0.44
2 tablespoons dried oregano: 18 calories, 0.6 g fat, $0.21
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes: negligible calories and fat, $0.02
1 pound eggplant, ends removed and chopped into 1-inch cubes: 109 calories, 0.9 g fat, $0.97
1/2 pound zucchini, ends removed, sliced into 1-inch slices: 36 calories, 0.5 g fat, $0.45
3/4 pound pasta: 1217 calories, 6.1 g fat, $0.50
Salt and black pepper: negligible calories and fat, $0.02
1/4 cup parmesan: 86 calories, 5.7 g fat, $0.68
TOTAL: 1973 calories, 43.3 g fat, $5.01
PER SERVING (TOTAL/3): 658 calories, 14.4 g fat, $1.67
PER SERVING (TOTAL/4): 493 calories, 10.8 g fat, $1.25

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MikeV said...

I'm sorry, but the answer is obvious. He's not a zombie, because:

"He's alive! ALIVE!"

If you can't trust Dr. Frankenstein's diagnosis, who can you trust?*
*He's a doctor, he knows what he's doing.

special55k said...

Gut response - not a zombie.

While technically reanimated tissue, it was tissue cobbled together from other bodies, and to me a zombie has to be "reborn" as a zombie in the same body he/she had while human.

Furthermore, as far as I know, Frankenstien doesn't enagage in typical zombie behaviors, so that goes against considering him as a zombie.

I have an idea where we all can be right - let;s come up with a class name above zombie, and then have zombie and frankenstein as subdivisions!

Anonymous said...

Guess it depends on how you define a zombie, no?

I'd go with a zombie being a reanimated dead body.

Frankenstein on the other hand was assembled from pieces - he never was alive in that form. So... not a zombie.

Wow - I thought about that waaaaaaaaay too much.

Anonymous said...

I think Frankenstein is in a category all to himself... He is neither... he's obviously something different than a real person, but he's obviously alive unlike a zombie...

Milton Hersted said...

Frankenstein was a scientist. Not a zombie at all. Hope that clears it all up.

sturtus said...

First off, it's The Creature or Frankenstein's Monster. I get it, Frankenstein is the name often used to refer to The Creature, but in a debate like this, I think we should elevate ourselves to a damn good debate on it and get as nerdy as possible.

Wikipedia defines a zombie as " a mythical creature that appears in folklore and popular culture typically as a reanimated corpse or a mindless human being." Given The Creature is a reanimated corpse it is easy to see why it might fall under the zombie category. But The Creature is not mindless at all. It's actually more intelligent than the average human, also stronger and much more athletic.

What separates The Creature from zombies as a reanimated corpse is less that it is made from parts of dead people but that it was actually assembled. In that sense, The Creature is more like a golem than anything, but certainly not a zombie.

Milton Hersted said...

Oh, and in the past I have been in many an argument at the difference between Reanimated (resurrected) vs zombie. Here is a brief origin of the zombie from wikipedia: "According to the tenets of Vodou, a dead person can be revived by a bokor or Voodoo sorcerer. Zombies remain under the control of the bokor since they have no will of their own. "Zombi" is also another name of the Vodou snake god Damballah Wedo, of Niger-Congo origin; it is akin to the Kongo word nzambi, which means "god". There also exists within the voudon tradition the zombi astral which is a human soul that is captured by a bokor and used to enhance the bokor's power.

In 1937, while researching folklore in Haiti, Zora Neale Hurston encountered the case of a woman that appeared in a village, and a family claimed she was Felicia Felix-Mentor, a relative who had died and been buried in 1907 at the age of 29. Hurston pursued rumors that the affected persons were given powerful drugs, but she was unable to locate individuals willing to offer much information. She wrote:
“ What is more, if science ever gets to the bottom of Voodoo in Haiti and Africa, it will be found that some important medical secrets, still unknown to medical science, give it its power, rather than gestures of ceremony.[5] ”

Several decades later, Wade Davis, a Harvard ethnobotanist, presented a pharmacological case for zombies in two books, The Serpent and the Rainbow (1985) and Passage of Darkness: The Ethnobiology of the Haitian Zombie (1988). Davis traveled to Haiti in 1982 and, as a result of his investigations, claimed that a living person can be turned into a zombie by two special powders being entered into the blood stream (usually via a wound). The first, coup de poudre (French: 'powder strike'), includes tetrodotoxin (TTX), the poison found in the pufferfish. The second powder is composed of dissociatives such as datura. Together, these powders were said to induce a death-like state in which the victim's will would be entirely subject to that of the bokor. Davis also popularized the story of Clairvius Narcisse, who was claimed to have succumbed to this practice.

Symptoms of TTX poisoning range from numbness and nausea to paralysis, unconsciousness, and death, but do not include a stiffened gait or a deathlike trance. According to neurologist Terence Hines, the scientific community dismisses tetrodotoxin as the cause of this state, and Davis' assessment of the nature of the reports of Haitian zombies is overly credulous.[6] Scottish psychiatrist R. D. Laing further highlighted the link between social and cultural expectations and compulsion, in the context of schizophrenia and other mental illness, suggesting that schizogenesis may account for some of the psychological aspects of zombification."

So by the real world definition of being a zombie, one could conclude that since ol Fn'stien's monster had free will he would not technically fall into the zombie category.

kittiesx3 said...

Frankenstein's monster also wanted a female companion for love etc. Zombies just want your brainsssss.

Lunaorion said...

well.. reading Mary Shelley's original, Frankenstein's monster is very much NOT a mindless ambulatory corpse. A huge part of the story is told from his POV, detailing his experiences and the trauma of being disowned by his creator. The whole story is actually exemplefying the monstrosity of man (ie Dr Frankenstein abandoning the monster), versus the monster, who to start with is fundamentally a good person-- after his experiences of being shunned and feared because of his appearance, he seeks vengence against the doctor for leaving him alone in the world, with not even a companion.

pumpkininrecovery said...

Um, Frankenstein was the doctor, not the Creature. So no, Frankenstein is not a zombie.

Milehimama said...

I think No, not a zombie.

Zombies are created by curses or diseases on dead, whole, people. Also, they mostly eat other, alive people.

Frankenstein is an amalgation of several bodies and was zapped to life. So, he's not dead and doesn't eat the main characters. Therefore, not a zombie.

Plus, zombies don't get married and Frankenstein had his bride, no?

Anonymous said...

FRANKENSTEIN ISN'T A ZOMBIE BECAUSE HE IS THE DOCTOR. The monster though... yeah he probably could be considered a zombie.

April said...

Frankenstein was a doctor. A very very strange doctor, but not a Zombie.

The Monster he created - thats all up for y'all to figure out, but I go with "monster".

Amy B said...

Frankenstein was written by a woman, Mary Shelley, and has been psycho-analyzed as an example of feminine specific complexes.

Frankenstein is said to represent the unconscious masculinity in a woman, a masculine figure cobbled together from aspects or qualities
of real men.

Zombies often represent mindless and destructive behaviors, like addictions and unconscious drives.

The man in your dream is asking you if Frankenstein the Monster is technically (scientifically) a zombie, as in, is there any hope he will evolve, or is he just a dead body seeking to feed a destructive appetite?

How's that? :)

Kris said...

Hm. The man in the dream never specified if it was Shelley's Creature or the Karloffian version in B&W movies. Shelley's version - not a zombie, definitely. I agree with y'all. He had soul.

The '40s film version comes a little closer. Though Milehimama, that's a great point - he had a woman! As is my understanding, modern zombies don't have dates.

Amy B, if you don't have an English degree, I'm giving you one based on that comment. Excellent analysis.

Hm. So, ultimately, I think the answer to this question depends on what version of zombies and Frankenstein/The Creature you're using, though the overwhelming consensus does appear to be: not the same thing. Thanks, you guys. I'll see if the dream man will accept the answer...

Amy B said...

As a matter of fact, I do have a B.A. in English.


Good luck with your dream.

Geoff K said...

This is indeed a tricky question and so to answer it I thought I would ask one of my Zombie acquaintances. "Skanky dead dude" I said, "this Frankenstein monster dude, he your bro? You down with him?"
"I wannt your brains, braaaaaains!" moaned the zombie."
"Look," I spoke firmly "Your Jenny Craig consultant is not going to be happy with you trying to get food ALL the time. And quite frankly you know brains go right to your hips."
"braaaaains!" petulantly insisted the zoombie.
"Okay you answer my question and I might be able to hook you up with some brain jerky." I lied.
Now Zombies are nothing if not reasonable so summing his minuscule George Bush sized intellect the zombie spoke, dribbling profusely.
"Not one of usss. Now jerkkkky!"
"I haven't got any on me at the moment I replied shiftily, but I know this great website where you can find all sorts of recipes..."

Chris said...

I have a suggestion for a column. I am going to have some vegan friends over for dinner, and I would like some ideas for a simple, non-complicated vegan appetizer that isn't the ever-present hummus or baba ghanoush (or just a plain cut up fruit or vegetable plate).

Oh, and I'm pretty sure Frankenstein was not a zombie.

Dazy said...

I'm trying this for dinner tonight. I think I'll try to shoot it, but I don't think it will be as pretty as your picture!