For my grandmother’s generation of Midwesterners, “salad” was a term used very loosely. “Salad” seemed to mean anything that had (or could have) vegetables in it, especially if the medium was Jell-O. A mid-century Midwestern “salad” made the right way was about 50% Jell-O.
For many people, eggplant can be an acquired taste. Not many kids eyes will light up at the idea of eggplant for dinner. I was an exception there, because I was introduced to eggplant via my mom’s fried eggplant. Since eggplant has roughly the same absorption abilities as a kitchen sponge, the fried eggplant had little choice but to taste like deep-fried goodness…so, naturally, I loved it.
Even today, when I eat freshly grilled eggplant with nothing more than a brush of olive oil and some rosemary, I reminisce about my mom’s fried eggplant.