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WHERE EGGPLANT WAS QUEEN FOR A DAY

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By: Akira Kyles and Johnathan Williams, The Baltimore Reporting Project

Reservoir Hill neighbors celebrated summer and that vegetable at a monthly cookout.

As they do the last Wednesday of every month, a couple dozen Reservoir Hill neighbors gathered recently at the Whitelock Community Farm for a potluck cookout – but with a twist. Everyone was asked to make eggplant the main ingredient of the dishes they brought.

Why eggplant?

“Because nobody likes eggplant,” Alison Worman, the farm manager said, jokingly. “It’s one of those vegetables that people are like, ‘Ughhh’ or you only know eggplant parmesan. So we’re trying to see if other people have recipes to sways to eat it.”

Eggplant is just one of the vegetables growing this summer at the farm, which has been around on Whitelock Avenue since 2010 when residents converted vacant land into a working farm. There is also summer squash, beets, carrots, Swiss chard, scallions, peppers and tomatoes. Radishes and sweet potatoes have recently been planted for fall harvesting.

As the sun set, the smell of charcoal filled the air, drawing in people to join in on the festivities. No flies, mosquitoes, or heat could stop the fun on a day when the temperature hovered around 90 degrees. Tables covered with brown paper were topped with an abundance of food. The spread included salad, pasta, eggplant bruschetta, sautéed eggplant, bread slices, croissants, grilled vegetables and zucchini bread. For dessert there was hand-cranked vanilla ice-cream, along with sprinkles and strawberries for toppings, and vegan cookies.

Children from the community played together with chalk, scooters and a bike with no pedals as the adults set up the food. "I'm a dinosaur!" one child, who appeared no older than two, screamed with total confidence. She continued growling and chasing people around the small park, making them laugh and smile in response.

Many attendees were completely puzzled by one item on the menu that they’d never seen before – a yellow watermelon.

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“Why is it yellow?” one woman asked, but others couldn’t answer because they were just as confused. No matter how strange and unfamiliar it seemed, the slices disappeared from the buffet table as soon as they were set out.

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Photos by Johnathan Williams