In the fall of 1971 I was promoting a Grand Funk Railroad concert at Pittsburgh’s Civic Arena. The band had just broken The Beatles’ Shea Stadium attendance record by selling out one of their venues in just 72 hours. Rock stars were becoming self-styled Gods, and started adding “riders” to their one-sheet contracts. These riders stipulated the bands’ additional behind-the-scenes requests.
Grand Funk’s rider included a request for me to provide a sit down “vegetarian” dinner for the act and their crew. This was the first time I’d ever had such a request. In fact, it was the first time I’d ever heard the word “vegetarian”!
The band’s lead singer and lead guitarist Mark Farner not only wanted a vegetarian dinner, he also wanted Perrier water. My workers had a hard enough time pronouncing Perrier, let alone trying to find it in Pittsburgh stores. This was back in an era when people drank water from a faucet, not from bottles purchased in stores.
I had asked my brother Mike to fulfill the rider requirements. On November 1, 1971, the night of the concert, I asked him whom he chose to cater this vegetarian meal. I was somewhat nervous about this. What if Grand Funk Railroad became the next Beatles? I couldn’t afford to irritate them. Mike’s reply was, “Dad.”
“Dad!” I shouted back. “You got Dad to be the caterer? What does he know about vegetarian food? He is the ultimate carnivore. If this act doesn’t like the food, I could lose them to another promoter.”
As it turned out, Mark Farner and the rest of the band and crew thought it was the best meal they’d had on the tour, and asked if Dad had any left so that they could take it back to the hotel after the concert.
So, by popular request, here’s the original recipe. I hope you like it.
- 1 large or 2 small eggplants
- 2 eggs
- 1 ½ cups cracker meal
- 3 cups of shredded Provolone cheese
- Vegetable oil for frying
- 1 jar spaghetti sauce
Whip the eggs in a bowl. Place the cracker meal on a flat surface. Cut eggplant into slices and dip them into the eggs. Remove the excess. Coat the eggplant with the cracker meal. Be sure to remove any excess cracker meal. Place on a tray.
To fry the coated eggplant, heat 1 to 2 inches of oil in a large pan (be careful) over medium heat. Place a few of the slices in the heated oil. After the slices begin to get brown, turn the eggplant over and brown the other side.
Place the fried eggplant on paper towels and let drain. Continue until all are drained. Place fried eggplant in a glass-baking dish and cover completely with shredded provolone cheese. Place baking dish under a broiler on high for about 5 minutes or until cheese begins to brown.
While the eggplant in under the broiler, heat the sauce in a pan over medium heat until it simmers, then cover eggplant with the spaghetti sauce. It’s ready.
This story always brings back good memories for me. Thanks, Dad, for saving the day.
You can read more about Grand Funk’s vegetarian meal and other behind-the-stage stories in my book “Hard Days Hard Nights.” Click here to purchase it from Amazon.