Zucchini Bread

When my sister and I were young, my Mom worked hard to pass on her few domestic skills to us. I remember her teaching me how to make french toast, how to take a blood stain out of a favorite pair of pants, how to sew a button onto a new blouse. One of my favorite memories, though, is making zucchini bread.

I can remember every step of the process, from the garden my parents tended in our spacious backyard every summer, to the warm, sweet smelling loaf. If you’re from Kentucky, you know, the first Saturday of May is the Derby, the second Saturday of May is for planting. Every year, without fail, my Dad tilled the deep brown earth into perfect, symmetrical lines. Then my mom, and some years my sister and I, would walk along the rows and put these adorable baby starter plants into indentations carved by our thumbs.

Every morning of our summer break, before the heat and humidity of Kentucky summers made it miserable to do anything, we would grab a wicker basket and gather the red tomatoes, plump and firm in our hands, the yellow squash, just as pretty as the blooms they were born from, and of course, the zucchini. I’ve often wondered if it was just our soil, or a Kentucky thing, but the zucchini grew the best. Within weeks we had deep green, gorgeous zucchini, as big as your forearm.

When you have pounds and pounds of zucchini sitting around, you have to get creative to get rid of it. People don’t realize how versatile zucchini is, either. You can fry it, bake it, grill it. It can be sweet, spicy or savory. It can give you different textures depending on how you treat it, but it always tastes good. I can remember our kitchen counters, and eventually table, too, having stacks of multicolored vegetables, a cornucopia kitchen. We had to get creative in reclaiming our space.

By August, we were all tired of zucchini. People stopped accepting our gourds as gifts and held their hands up in surrender. No more zucchini! That’s when the baking would begin. I’ll be honest, Mom and Dad did the bulk of the work when it came to the garden, but when it came to the baking, Allison and I stepped up. Mom would announce, usually on a day when  we were stuck inside by rain or sweltering heat, that we would be making zucchini bread. My mom is not known for her cooking. She will freely admit that. But she makes a mean zucchini bread, and luckily, she passed that recipe on.

On these Zucchini days, we would pull every loaf pan in our house out and line them up in an anticipatory row, the aluminum disposable ones sitting next to the glass and the blue cornflower patterned ones that make me think of ancestry and heritage and recipes passed down for generations. The goal here was to make an assembly line, efficiently filling, baking, and pulling the loaves from counter to oven and back up to counter.

The real bulk of the work, though, came from peeling and grating zucchini. Allison and I would sit at the kitchen table, one of us with a trash can in between our knees, peeling zucchini and revealing its soft, white-green insides. The other sister would balance a big bowl on her lap and grate zucchini into it until our hands ached and our fingers were shiny and red. Mom would play the same albums that stand as a soundtrack of my childhood, The Beatles, Sheryl Crow, Dido, and Van Morrison.

Once we had grated our weight in zucchini, mom would supervise the measuring and mixing. My mother, who claims to be terrible at math, taught me how to add and convert fractions as she explained why we should make a double or triple batch to speed up the baking process. Filling our assorted loaf pans with thick, cream batter and sliding them long-ways into the oven was always deeply satisfying. The smell that filled our entire house was warmth and cinnamon and melted brown sugar. Everyone’s mouth was watering on the whole block by the time the first batch was done. The first couple loaves never even made it to the cooling rack, as we all burnt our fingertips and tongues on the soft, sweet, spongy bread.

What I remember most about zucchini bread, though, is giving it away. After it had cooled and been covered in plastic wrap and, sometimes, tied with a bow, Allison and I were instructed to go to our neighbors and give them bread. I remember one neighbor, an elderly, widowed woman, was always so happy to see us. We would also walk in and sit with her for a little while. Through these visits, and many more instances in my life, my Mom taught me to be kind to everyone. Zucchini bread taught me to put love and care into baking. It taught me to have and show gratitude when cooking, because it is an opportunity to feed yourself, your loved ones, and your soul.

The Arctic Scoop: A Review

I had a rough morning today. It’s been raining for a month straight and I just started my period. I’m hormonal, exhausted, and then ready for this weekend. After spending about an hour moping and feeling sorry for myself, I decided to head to work early, rather than continue the one-woman pity party I was currently throwing.

As I drove down Hurstebourne Lane I passed a shopping center with a gym and a bookstore and a purple fronted store called The Arctic Scoop. I had heard this name in passing and decided that ice cream would be the perfect comfort food for me on this rainy, yucky day.

The shop was open and warm, with murals on the walls and paper lanterns hanging from the ceiling. It smelled like cold, sweet, cream. There were friendly, hand drawn chalk board signs displaying the different options

for building your ice cream and cute little signs recommending combinations of flavors and mix ins.

I had never been to this shop before and I expected the normal set up: a counter with tubs of ice cream, a couple types of cones and maybe some yummy toppers. This was not the case at The Arctic Scoop. They are a nitrogen ice cream shop, which is, apparently, all the rage right now. I was instructed to pick a “base” from different milk products. I chose almond milk. I was tickled that they had so many non-dairy options when it came to bases. After the “base” I got to choose two flavors. I chose white chocolate and coconut.

For my “add-ins” I got to choose two. It was a difficult to choose from all the amazing choices, but I picked almonds and vanilla wafers. The attendant took all my ingredients and threw them in a metal bowl and swirled them around with a bunch of smoke and magic and created a milkshake.

I don’t honestly know the benefits of nitrogen made ice cream, if there are any, but I know that milkshake was the bomb dot com!!! Creamy and full of flavor and piled high with homemade whipped cream. Smooth and sweet and just what I needed.

Milkshakes are $5.99 for a nice size shake, I honestly don’t know how big it was. They also had ice cream cones, cups, sundaes, ice cream sandwiches, banana splits, and other sweet stuff.

It seemed like the perfect place to take a date or bring the kids. I love the fact that it is open until 11 on the weekends. I would love to catch a late night scoop with my hubby one day soon.

 

Wander-ful Writing: Journal Entry from a Self-Proclaimed Hippie

hippie

I always thought of myself as a romantic. A hippie, a free spirit, a bohemian, a wandering soul. Maybe it’s the writer in me, but I always pictured my husband and me going on grand adventures, sleeping on the beach and going where the wind blows. The situation we’re in… The couch-hopping, tote-bearing, no-home-having life we currently have… is not what I pictured when I said we were hippies. Every time I daydreamed though I forgot to add the part where we don’t know where we’re sleeping every night, when our next meal is, or who is going to be offended if I ask to take a shower. How many of our friends think we’re big moochers, despite the numbers of times they crashed at our apartment, when it was ours.

Granted, we do have a “home base,” a place to keep our bed and our clothes and our kitty cats. We count ourselves very lucky to have that single thread of stability in this storm. It’s bittersweet, though. It’s not home. It’s not walking around in our underwear playing Tool and smoking cigs at noon. It’s not dragging the mattress out into the living room, eating nachos, and watching Harry Potter for three days straight. We lost so many silly things that really defined our lives. In the strangest way, though, it seems this defines us, too. The struggle is really real. We are the wandering souls. Not just physically, but literally. Allen and I would not let the patriarchy chew us up and spit out what we were supposed to be. We bucked against the system and now is the hard part. We must figure out a way to create our own living. To sustain our selves, without selling our souls.

Last night I was cynical. I was complaining and whining about how miserable I was. This morning I woke up with a cleaning gig on my phone (one of the many ways I make money), I got cat food, smokes, and donuts at the corner store. Allen made coffee. The fact that this morning we all share a tiny bedroom with nickelodeon slime green walls doesn’t seem quite so depressing this morning. This may be a setback, but life’s not over. We’ve seen worse, and we’ve always made it out on top.

There are many beautiful opportunities on our horizon. I think what we’re waiting for is the courage to reach out and take them.

Natural Disasters

Our bodies are
tectonic plates,
The way we move
makes earthquakes.
The way we shift & shimmy in our sleep
Shakes the heavens and earth.
My tears are tidal waves
Clearing my path to you, babe.
Parting seas,
Red, green, & blue
Destroying everything,
to get me to you.
Our love is like a natural disaster,
Take me out and spin me faster
Round and round  and round we’ll go
As we rock our bodies  to and fro.
The body count grows higher
But our hearts are forest fires.
They burn before they know,
In order to love
you have to grow.