Saturday, May 16, 2009

Structural Functional Eggplant Parmesan

Ah... structural functionalism. Simple yet perceived as complex. Fantastically basic. Filling. What a theory. What am I talking about? Here goes. In the study of sociology there are three major theoretical paradigms. Whoa! What is that you say? Hooza whatza? Yeah. Okay. One more time: Theoretical Paradigm. A road map to an idea. A blueprint. A set of directions. We sociologists have great ideas. Huge, sweeping, monumental ideas that we want to study. But they become overwhelming, and we can lose our way (this is an issue we call validity but non student readers don't have to remember that).

So say for example we want to study poverty, we can use one of many different sets of directions to guide us through our research. To be honest, I am a symbolic interactionist myself, but I can understand both the use of functionalism, as well as the temptation. It is like a set of directions from IKEA. It is BASIC. Simple is a really good thing sometimes. So if we were to study poverty using the structural functional approach, we would begin by asking a question. How does Poverty function for society? Hmmmmm. I know, the concept of something not so pleasant actually paired with the word "function" doesn't seem to make much sense, but in this case, in the case of sociological thinking, it does. Remember my post about objectivity? The word function is not a positive or negative word when we are being objective. It simply means how does something "work" either for good or for bad, and if it is bad... how does that work? So how does poverty "work" for society, and what the hell does it have to do with eggplant?

The basic idea that the functionalists look at is how society reacts to the social problem. This is what helps define how the social problem "works." It is kind of Zen, now that I think about it, it is more about the study of the reaction as opposed to the action itself. I think I am beginning to like this paradigm more as I try to explain it. Anyway, poverty would work like this: It helps bond a community together, it teachers others what not to do, it creates jobs for those who help those who are in need, it sustains the need for organized religion, it rallies a community's spirit, it brings out the best and the worst in society so we can see who we really are. Do you donate money to the poor, starving people around the world? Would you if the poor and starving were in your back yard? But here I go, turning everything back into the symbolic interactionist model, silly me. You get the picture. It is about looking at society in terms of layers. Looking at the interconnectedness of the functions. Understanding that each piece works with another piece to create positive or negative social change, but social change none the less. Objectivity helps us to critique ourselves using this theory. It is a good, basic, starting point for research.

Eggplant is a good, basic vegetable. I like it. I like its deep purpleness. I know there is such a thing as a white eggplant but ... why? I have eaten eggplant many different ways. I always think it is "okay." Not so bad. The truth is the only way to prepare it that makes it stand out, stunningly and with pride, the best and most delightful way to eat eggplant, is to make eggplant parmesan. The layers take this basic vegetable and show us its complexity. We are able to explore the YUM that is the truth of eggplant instead of the YUCK that is the mushy, bland eggplant made almost every the way. One qualifier: I do understand there are people out there who would beg to differ. Who will argue with me about baba ganoush and moussaka. Keep those lips shut people. I am trying to make a point here.


Eggplant: 1 nice size or 2 or 3, depending on how many people you are cooking for

Sauce: Depending on how big you are making this thing, think one fat can... 15 ounces or so of sauce for each eggplant. You can use leftover Fay's Sunday Sauce, or you can buy cans of plain sauce. NOT JARS! CANS. No flavors added. Plain old Sauce you find in a can next to the crushed tomatoes. No Prego PLEASE.

Shredded mozzarella
Parmesan cheese
salt, pepper


Get out a big frying pan and put half and inch of oil in it. While the oil heats over medium heat peel and slice your eggplant. I like them thin, but not paper thin or anything. Get 2 plates ready: one with four and salt and pepper mixed together in it, one with paper towels on it. Beat some eggs in a bowl. When the oil is ready, and it should be ready by now for sure (you can test by putting tiny drop of water on the surface and if it jumps it is ready. My grandma used to use spit... ewwww Right? Shut UP.) Quickly begin the dance of the eggplant. Dip it in the flour and then the egg (THAT IS NOT A TYPO...IT IS FLOUR AND THEN EGG)and place it in the pan. Do this with as many slices as will fit and then turn over the first ones as they will probably be done already. Continue to do this until all are fried and draining in layers on the plate with the paper towels. Try to remember to salt them when they come out of the pan. You may need to stop once or twice to get more egg or flour, or if you are frying a lot of eggplant you may need to get another dish lined with paper towel. Sometimes when I am making a huge amount I simply line my counter with brown paper bags.

Now turn off hot oil and put aside. Later do whatever it is you do with the oil, Bill and I put it in cans and put it in the freezer. Then they magically disappear... I wonder....

Now the fun part! Get out whatever casserole dish will fit the amount you decided to cook. Put a layer of sauce at the bottom, put a layer of eggplant, top with some sauce, then put the mouzz, then parmesan. (Tip: Nice to put some FRESH basil in as well if you have it) Keep layering until you are out of stuff. Your top layer should be extra cheesy.

Preheat oven to 350 while layering. If your casserole is really full put it on a foil wrapped sheet pan to avoid a messy oven. Cook until bubbly good brown cheesy goodness.


See, simple. And yet... complex. Historical, and yet... yummy. All good things boil down to the ingredients. Recipes and social theory, relationships and life. You get out what you put in. See you all Monday!

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