I COULDN'T stand it. Millions were starving and my daughter picked at her food. It drove me wild.

"IF YOU DON'T EAT THAT MUSHROOM . . ." I said, trying not to grab my daughter's fork and eat it myself . . . "IF YOU DON'T EAT WHAT I COOK I'LL FIND SOMEONE ON THE STREET AND DRAG THEM INTO THE HOUSE AND GIVE THEM YOUR DINNER!" I scanned the sidewalk for any student on the way to Montgomery College, up the block.

She ate the mushroom.

"GOOD!" I cried. "And now eat EVERYTHING on your plate."

Let me hasten to add that this scenario occurred before my culinary manifesto -- The One-Pan Meal -- by which all foods, even eggplant, can be made edible.

My source here is none other than the original uncivilized American child -- Huckleberry Finn. Readers of this American classic will recall that one reason he left the Widow Douglas' house was that he hated the meals.


As I look into the pot of a one-pan meal I see a fast, versatile, nutritious and economical combination of vegetables and meats that in a more conventional fashion may never meet.

There beside thin slices of green and yellow squash lurk cubes of eggplant, onions, mushrooms, sweet Italian sausage, chicken and lamb, surrounded by fresh spinach leaves and egg noodles simmering in a wine and yogurt sauce. It is in some sense a programmed subversion, a way of camouflaging these foods so that my children eat everything.

Furthermore, keep in mind that a one-pan meal can be dressed up and presented to any guest on the spur of the moment. Just garnish this one-pan stew with fresh chopped parsley and grated cheese and serve it with hot bread or muffins (garlic, corn, sourdough, whatever). Add fresh fruit or salad for a complete meal.

These stews cook quickly, especially with my own time-saving systems. For instance, I buy inexpensive cuts of meat (or the better cuts if they're on sale) and freeze them. I pull them out an hour before I want to slice them, sprinkle them with fresh crushed garlic and lemon juice, and store them until needed. Don't worry about mixing different kinds of meat -- the variety of textures is wonderful.

THE ONE-PAN MEAL (4 servings) 2 tablespoons olive oil or butter 2 medium onions, sliced or quartered 1 tablespoon crushed garlic 1/2 pound link Italian sausage, thinly sliced (hot or sweet or a combination) 1- to 2-pound combination of chicken, pork, lamb or veal cut into cubes or bite-size pieces (a small amount of meat goes a long way in this dish) 1 cup eggplant, peeled and diced 1 pound can crushed tomatoes (optional) 1 to 3 cups sliced mushrooms 1 medium yellow squash, thinly sliced 1 medium green squash, thinly sliced 2 tablespoons soy sauce 1 teaspoon tarragon 1 teaspoon marjoram 2 tablespoons cornstarch or flour 1 cup chicken broth or water 1 egg yolk 1 1/2 cups white wine (optional) 1/2 pound fresh spinach (substitute 1 10-ounce package frozen, thawed and drained) 1/2 pound egg noodles (substitute spinach noodles) 1 cup plain yogurt or sour cream Grated parmesan cheese (optional), for garnish Chopped parsley (optional), for garnish

Heat oil or butter in a deep skillet or pot. Saute' onions and garlic. Add sausage and cook until firm. Add chicken and increase heat (be sure to scrape the bottom and sides of pan while cooking to gather up all the goodies). After chicken is browned add the other meats and cook over high heat. Soak eggplant in cold salt water for 5 minutes to remove bitterness, then rinse. Add eggplant, tomatoes, mushrooms, yellow and green squash, soy and spices to pot and simmer 5 minutes. Whisk cornstarch with broth or water and egg yolk. Pour in cornstarch mixture and gently fold while stew thickens (add more liquid if stew gets too thick). There should be enough liquid to cover noodles when added. Add noodles. Cover pot and let cook 15 to 20 minutes or until noodles are soft. Add wine and spinach. Cover and simmer until spinach is cooked, about 5 to 10 minutes. Just before serving, fold in yogurt or sour cream. Sprinkle top with grated cheese and parsley, if desired.