The Paisley Pattern – is a name that was given to a sensuously twisted teardrop in 1888 in Paisley, a Scottish city known as a center of the weaving industry. However, the pattern itself takes its origin and has deep roots in an Indian, Persian and Iranian vegetable motif of the eggplant. Dating back to the 1550s, the boteh motif, also called a Persian pickle, came to Europe much later and became a very popular pattern of cashmere fabrics. The demand for Paisley brought from British colonies on shawls, silk saris, decorative quilts and upholstery was so insatiable that the East India Company couldn’t satisfy the European market and started lagging behind import needs. In the 17th century Baltic countries (where fabrics usually arrived first), Boteh, an ancient symbol of fertility and infinity, was perceived as having power to avert enemies and “the evil stare”. Since 1640, France began to manufacture the Paisley pattern in Marseilles by means of printing and stamping techniques. As a result, the French had stopped the import from India and, two centuries later, Scots copied and started sewing Jacquard shawls to once and for all domesticate them in European fashion and furniture industries. As I have already mentioned, the intricately decorated teardrop, or a kidney, is an interpretation of an eggplant. Being brought from India, its country of origin, an eggplant has been grown in Poland since the 16th century while, in other countries, the boteh pattern started ruling carpets and embroidered tapestries. In Turkey, Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan boteh has not only decorated fabrics, but also jewelry, pottery, buildings and frescos. Garden design has been influenced by this eastern motif as well.
From a botanical point of view, an eggplant should be classified as a berry. From my point of view, an eggplant is one of the sexiest vegetables I know with its deep, oil-like color, taut skin and mysterious flesh that absorbs all the other tastes with an uncontrollable enthusiasm. Let alone its shape and the other name: a pear of love. And the very fact that I learned how to prepare it while living in Turkey by making a dish which celebrates the eggplant the most: the imam fainted (imam bayildi).
The imam fainted is the dish well known in most of the Balkan and Arab countries. It’s an example of Turkish traditional cuisine famous for its comforting and warming qualities: isn’t now the time of long autumn evenings at home?
Bring water to a boiling point in a large pot and put two whole eggplants in it, lower heat to bring water to a simmer and blanch the eggplants for 7-8 minutes. Heat a slosh of olive oil on a frying pan, add a thinly sliced onion and 3 chopped garlic cloves and cook until they’re transparent. Then add 4 peeled and sliced tomatoes. Cover everything and cook over a low heat for 10 minutes. Near the end of this time, add one chopped parsley, a hint of cinnamon, cumin, nutmeg, chili, sugar, salt and lemon juice. Stir everything. Cut eggplants in half, remove some of the flesh and slice it finely. Stir in the finely sliced flesh and cooking vegetables to make stuffing. Then, spoon the stuffing into the halves and arrange them in a heat-proof dish. Cook for 45 minutes at 180 degrees. You can serve it hot, though I like it better when it cools to room temperature and stays vegan, without thick yoghurt, but with wine and a loaf of bread.
Rumor has it that imam fainted from delight at tasting. I think it lost consciousness when it saw how much expensive oil was used for its preparation, for an eggplant left unwatched can absorb gallons of it. During autumn there are two ways we can use eggplants to warm ourselves: by wearing a sophisticated parsley shawl or by consuming a warm dish in which oil transports a whole variety of rusty and hot spices to our taste buds. I have three ways to warm myself for I also have my memories from my life in Turkey – the life I loved in a different way but as intensely as I love my Polish one.
Text: Anna Królikiewicz
Artist, teacher, author of numerous exhibitions and installations. She works as the Associate Professor at the Academy of Fine Arts in Gdańsk where she teaches drawing and at School of Form in Poznań where she gives classes titled The shape of taste. In her drawings and objects she deals with a broadly defined corporeality of a body and the fragility of memory. Her latest works touch upon the issues related to the physiology of taste and the phenomenon of synesthesia.