The Dinner & Eggplant Lasagna
The line between what is right for your children versus what is deemed correct by society is a fine and wiggly one. We all remember the kids with the amazing hovercraft at the science fair...the kids who couldn’t spell “physics” but happened to have engineer dads. We remember, too, the high school parties with parents present who didn’t mind that little 21 rule as long as no one broke any windows. It’s clear that the love we foster for our offspring is a drug so strong that side effects include legal and moral amnesia. Still, author Herman Koch illustrates new parental extremes. In The Dinner, Koch would have us believe that there is no protection, no lie, no sacrifice too extreme to compensate for the shortcomings and missteps of our little ones.
Have you seen the famous film Dinner With Andre? The entire film takes place between friends over dinner. Full confession: I fell asleep for most of it, to the great chagrin of my friend, an uber-fan. There simply wasn’t enough plot for me to buy into the unusual construct. But imagine that you take that same construct – a conversation over dinner – and pepper in some ego and pretense, add a generous pinch of over-the-top drama, and douse it all in crime, mysteriousness, and stakes so high they will affect an entire nation. Now, chefs, you can nosh on the highly engaging and highly disturbing novel The Dinner.
The book is structured like a menu; we move from drinks to appetizer to main course to dessert. It’s set in a chi chi restaurant, wildly expensive and serving anything but comfort food. In fact, nothing about this meal is comfortable. The dinner guests include Paul Lohman (our narrator), Serge Lohman (his brother), Claire Lohman (Paul’s wife) and Babette (Serge’s wife). Serge, a slimy networker running for Prime Minister, and Babette, his emotional-wreck of an aging trophy wife, are the couple you love to hate. Paul and Claire, meanwhile, are the initial sweethearts of the novel – they seem sweet, in love, normal, and barely tolerant of the Hated Ones.
At first, the clan talks of work, politics, and culture. They cover their mutual dislike with platitudes and passive aggressively use waiters as weapons. But soon, like the menu, the guests must get to the meat of the conversation. The Lohmans are meeting to discuss the fates of their boys – Michel, Paul and Claire’s athletic golden boy, Rick, Serge and Babette’s mealy angsty one, and Beau, their manipulative adoptee from Africa. The three have become inextricably mixed up in horrific crimes against innocent bystanders, and their parents must decide whether to stage a rescue or throw them to the courts. Meanwhile, we learn that at least half of the characters are clinically psychotic. Charming family, eh?
This is a tale that will stress you out, tighten the muscles between your shoulder blades, and bend your mouth into a grimace. Most of all, The Dinner will bring on moral consternation as you decide for yourself what is right and what is wrong. I recommend reading this one with a friend so you can enjoy a spirited debate!
Debating requires sustenance, of course. This inspired recipe is based on Paul’s side dish with dinner, a kind-of eggplant sandwich. Because no one liked their food too much in The Dinner, we’ve had to do some adapting. So I took Paul’s pathetic side and turned it into a wonderful main course: eggplant lasagna. (No noodles! Great for pre-swimsuit season.)
- Cooking spray
- 3 egg whites
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1 cup grated Italian cheese (I used a combination of parmesan, romano and asiago)
- 1 cup breadcrumbs
- dash garlic salt
- dash ground black pepper
- 2 eggplants (peeled and sliced into rounds)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 small onion (chopped)
- 1 lb ground beef
- 48 oz tomato sauce
- 2 cups mozzarella cheese (thinly sliced)
- red pepper flakes (optional)
Preheat oven to 375ºF. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray.
Combine egg whites and water in a shallow dish, mixing well.
Combine Italian cheese, bread crumbs, garlic salt, and ground black pepper in a separate shallow dish.
Dip eggplant slices in egg mixture, and then in the crumb mixture. The crumbs may not stick perfectly, so just prepare to get your hands dirty! Arrange slices on the prepared baking sheets.
Bake eggplant slices until tops are golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Flip eggplant and bake an additional 20 to 25 minutes.
Remove eggplant from the oven and increase temperature to 400ºF.
Saute your onions with olive oil in a medium-sized pot until soft. Add the beef and a bit of salt and pepper. Cook until evenly browned, then drain excess grease.
Stir tomato sauce into ground beef and add red pepper to taste; bring to a simmer and set sauce aside.
Oil a 9x13" baking dish with olive oil. Place 1/2 of the eggplant slices on bottom of the dish. Pour 1/2 of tomato sauce with ground beef on top of eggplant layer. Lay 1/2 of mozzarella cheese on top of sauce layer. Repeat.
Bake uncovered in the preheated oven until cheese is melted and sauce is bubbling, 10 to 15 minutes.
Remove from oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Then feast!
Source: I bought this book from Amazon.