Summers when I was a kid were easy rolling days with hot pavement and the occasional spray of a garden hose. There was mostly always watermelon on the dinner table and a few lucky evenings of the season would bring Sloppy Joes. I still find that there’s not much better than a Sloppy Joe and a slice of watermelon after a day in the sun.
Sloppy Joe days were the good days, the ones that elicit shimmering memories and blankets of nostalgia. On average days, it was more likely to find the table laid with Zucchini Casserole the demon of summer meals.
My mother made the dish by browning up ground beef along with a chopped onion, then she’d throw zucchini slices in there and cook ’em ’till they were good and slimy. Also I think maybe she added some cornstarch and water to form a gravy like sauce?
Over all my mother is a very good cook. I have come to see the merit in the other dishes at which I turned up my childhood nose but not this one. There’s not even one redeeming quality there. I had to fight the gag reflex through every bite I was ever made to take of that stuff. If I were at my mother’s house today and she served Zucchini Casserole, I’d have to excuse myself from the table rather that attempt politeness in the presence of the beast. Luckily the recipe has been retired from her repertoire so there’s no need to worry.
A few years ago I was participating in a produce co-op and found zucchini in my produce basket. What was I to do? Where was I to turn? I tolerate zucchini bread, and there’s a zucchini cake recipe floating around out there that’s quite delicious but out side of baking the only use for Zucchini I knew of was the dread casserole and do you honestly think there’s any way I would ever make that?
I considered just tossing it, but then I felt wasteful and guilty. Once the guilt was triggered, I couldn’t even forget about it so It would go bad and I could chuck it in peace. The darn zucchini wouldn’t leave my mind. Every time I entered my kitchen I would know it was there. Like the creepy stalker boy in high school who you try your best to ignore but can’t quite because you know he’s there, watching and if you let your guard down and lose track of him you might turn around and find him there beside you in all his creepy glory hoping for some kind of interaction to take home with him and dream about.
Lucky for me, some random friend of a friend whose blog I happened to be glancing at posted a Zucchini recipe and it didn’t sound half bad. Just shred the zukes, squeeze out some excess water, and sautee them in olive oil along with a few cloves of chopped garlic, then toss with pasta and Parmesan. Good and simple, simple and good. Plus, not slimy at all.
I’ve had a good relationship with zucchini ever since. I even feel comfortable using it’s nick name these days. See up there how I called them “Zukes” in the context of the saving recipe? That’s the kind of healing power those simple instructions hold for me.
Recently I was perusing facebook and I came across the following post by a girl who grew up around the block from me.
Suddenly I found myself gagging as the memory of slimy zucchini eased itself past my protesting esophagus. I had convinced myself that zucchini was no longer being fried up in the company of hamburger and onions (she added via comment that her dish also included onions)
I’ve looked askance at the zucchini as I pass it by in the produce department during every shopping trip since.