When Was My Last Bread Post?

(Freyas Note: I've passed on Weekend Herb Blogging responsibilities to Paul this week. WHB is hosted by Anna at Annas Cool Finds this week.)
Occasionally I encounter a fellow American while I’m “out and about” (how Midwestern). It’s usually hard to pick out the accent in a throng of people as there are certain British dialects which sound similar, Irish for example. Today I had one such encounter. This time it wasn’t the accent that gave it away, but rather the vocabulary. The word that piqued my interest was zucchini.

The equivalent here is courgette and while I occasionally hear eggplant instead of aubergine, I never hear the word zucchini. I personally prefer zucchini to courgette because it’s just more fun. Ironically I was looking for courgettes (thinking zucchini) when I heard this woman say zucchini.

In my current bid to recapture my childhood, a recurring theme in my posts on Freyas blog, I had decided to make zucchini bread. I had everything in the cupboard to do a great recipe from the classic book Beard on Bread (James Beard 1973) except for zucchini. Now my mom will wonder why I haven’t used her recipe from the family cookbook, but I’m claiming immunity under the double jeopardy clause as this recipe has already been used once this year. Besides, it’s only because of my mom that I like zucchini bread or rather despite my moms attempts to put me off zucchini forever.

When I was a kid, my mom and her friend Gin had garden plots at LaCrosse Floral. They would go to the garden just about every day in the summer and pull weeds while my brother Mark and I would play under a big willow tree on the property. Occasionally they would rope us into carrying buckets of water around, but for the most part we were free to play under that tree with no obligation. We didn’t realise in the early weeks that we were simply buying on credit. We weren’t informed of the terms of the contract either. It was only when presented with massive sacks full of green beans to top and tail that we realised that we were not only paying the debt back, but at a massive APR, the monetary equivalent of which would be around 78.9%.

Hour after hour we’d sit in the basement while our friends rode bikes, flew kites, and played baseball. Fingers green, knuckles aching, skin dry from the little fuzz on fresh beans that soaks up moisture like a sponge, we would stagger outside to play in the last remaining hour of daylight. The whole process would begin the next day and the day after that. I’ll tell you something too, there’s no way to efficiently cut the ends off of beans. You line them up thinking it’s faster to hack at twenty beans at a time, but this just isn’t the case. One at a time is the easiest method, albeit monotonous.

Yes, beans were abundant. Fortunately I loved them and still do. (Ros may think Goon is weird for dipping beans in honey, but I love them with Ketchup!) The only other thing that grew in that garden was something I wasn’t as fond of, zucchini. I hated it! When I was a kid, before the days of lazy parenting, or at least during the awkward phasing in period of lazy parenting, not liking food didn’t mean not eating food. Since beans freeze and zucchini doesn’t I was condemned to zucchini every single summer day.

My mom did make attempts at preserving these horrible marrows. I don’t remember them all, but I’m sure she canned some and I know for a fact that she even managed to make zucchini powder. I remember it being in a little bottle and having it sprinkled over food in place of other seasonings, you know, the kind that actually tasted of something. While her attempts to maintain this particular method of torture throughout the winter months proved unsuccessful for the most part, at least her ability to disguise the device of torture was more refined. The most effective of her ruses was, you guessed it, zucchini bread!

I remember the taste and texture and how great this bread was cold with a layer of butter. I also remember that there was a lot of this when I was growing up. A funny thing happens when you use vegetables as the foundation of a bread dough or cake batter (and make no mistake, the word bread is only used to make this seem healthier. Zucchini Bread is actually a cake.). A natural sweetness and moisture is imparted into the finished product that can’t be achieved by any other means. The reason is that vegetables have a very high water content, but for the most part retain their shape during cooking. When added to a bread or cake the cell walls of the vegetable don’t break down until the baking process nears completion. This means that the moisture in the vegetable is delivered gradually through the process of osmosis over several days. The addition of a vegetable to bread or cake means the finished product will stay edible for several days longer. Want proof? Carrot cake!

Zucchini bread is very similar to and, in my opinion, better than carrot cake. It’s only the colour and absence of alliteration that prevents it from capturing the adoration by the masses currently heaped on the altar of carrot cake. Freya disagrees with me on this point, but she would, being slavishly devoted to the cream cheese frosting and the “cute little frosting carrot on top” that garishly garnishes the iconic carrot cake. But it just ain’t fair! Zucchini bread is carrot cakes ugly little brother. He doesn’t get the chicks and he wouldn’t be caught dead in the same outlandish wardrobe, but by gum, he will prove himself and he’ll do it on his own merits!

CARL GOHS’ ZUCCHINI BREAD (From James Beard Beard on Bread)
Ingredients:
3 Eggs
2 Cups granulated sugar (a lot, even by 1970’s standards)
1 Cup vegetable oil (I used sunflower)
2 Cups grated, peeled raw zucchini
3 Teaspoons vanilla extract
3 Cups plain flour
1 Teaspoon salt
1 Teaspoon baking soda
1/3 Teaspoon baking powder
3 Teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 Cup coarsely chopped walnuts (I omitted this)


METHOD
Beat the eggs until light and foamy. Add the sugar, oil, zucchini, and vanilla and mix lightly but well. Combine the flour, salt, soda, baking powder, and cinnamon and add to the egg-zucchini mixture. Stir until well blended, add nuts, and pour into 2 greased loaf tins. Bake in a preheated oven (350°F/175°C) for one hour. Cool on a rack before serving.

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

Now that your soup events are over, you ought to try the zucchini soup in the family cookbook. That recipe comes from two gourmet cooks in Eugene Oregon. It is really tasty. I would freeze the makings for that soup. mom

Rebecca said...

What a coincidence you should be writing about having to help your Mom with putting up beans when you were a kid because just last week I was sitting at the dinner table talking about the very same thing. Only my sister and I had to do it on the porch and be tortured by flies at the same time that we were shelling, snapping, or shucking. I was telling my youngest son that he has absolutely no idea what an idyllic childhood he has had compared to the one I had, full of onerous chores like that.

That being said, I can't agree with you about zucchini bread! I love carrot cake, and think carrots have an affinity for baking, being sweet, but INMHO, zuccini bread is an abomination and was just invented as a way to use up surplus veggies. Zucchini, being tasteless, only adds moisture. I don't see how it can add sweetness since it isn't sweet.

Fortunately my mom didn't like zucchini so I didn't have to deal with it as a kid, but as a teen I did spend one day volunteering in on a zucchini farm, picking it, and that was nasty work! Very prickly. And I'm sure you've heard the joke among country people about having to lock your car during zucchini season for fear of coming back and finding it full of bags of zucchini!

Ulrike said...

Can you imagine, how difficult it is for a German to understand the English language? Courgette vs zucchini, aubergine vs eggplant, luggage vs baggage, lory vs truck and so on ;-)

And as a hobby baker I agree zucchini bread is a cake. IMHO breads are only breads when you use yeast and/or sourdough

Kathryn said...

I have never had zucchini bread! And Paul, it looks really good. Why did you omit the walnuts? Is the bread very sweet? I am having trouble imagining how it tastes...

Kathryn

Kathryn said...

Oh, and please continue these posts about recapturing your childhood through food. They're great!

Kathryn

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Love your write up on your mom's garden. Those are the worst times that have become wonderful fun when we look back with adult eyes.
Love this zucchini bread and Beard's book!

Anna Haight said...

I remember snapping beans and having all manner of summer squashes every day as a child. (Did you ever have the flying saucer one?) The bread looks marvelous, and thanks for participating in WHB!

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Love your write up on your mom's garden. Those are the worst times that have become wonderful fun when we look back with adult eyes.
Love this zucchini bread and Beard's book!

Callipygia said...

I'm new to this blog and really enjoying the duo-effort but admit to getting a bit confused about who is doing the posting and commenting- a little slow on the uptake! Zucchini bread does sound much better than courgette bread and maybe it could be dressed up with cream cheese and chubby green marrows on top for Freya. I'm happy to talk to you about a drawing- contact my email.

Katie said...

The hardest part about having a garden is the all of nothing part - and I usually end up with the all. I make Zucchini Bread all summer and Pumpkin Bread all winter.
I, too, hated zucchini as a child - maybe it's a Wisconsin thing...

Joyce said...

Years ago, neighbors with big hearts but on the far end of the spectrum from 'gourmet', brought me a behemoth of a zucchini from their end of the season garden. I should have laquered it and made a door stop. My attempt to disguise it from my young sons failed, perhaps because the recipe I chose had only a fraction of the sugar yours does...might be the reason. It turned out to be a crummy(forgive the pun) vegetable loaf! Never made another attempt. But you may have given me the impetus to have a go at it again. Still, I shudder at that 2 cups of sugar! Fun post, remembering our childhood garden experiences.

Chris said...

This is great! I was just thinking about making zucchini bread - bought the veggies the other day! Just needed a recipe...and here it is. Fabulous!

Toni said...

When I lived in New Mexico, we used to grow zucchini. One hill of 3 plants would have been sufficient for all our zucchini needs for a year, but my husband never believed that his plants would grow. So he always planted several hills. Needless to say, the abundance was overwhelming! I've made many a zucchini bread in my day, and he came up with the brilliant idea of making zucchini relish, which we would can.

This recipe reminds me of my New Mexico years, which is to say - I love it!!! Thanks for sharing!

Brilynn said...

We've always had mass amounts of zucchini growing in the garden, my mom suckered me into liking it by making chocolate zucchini cake, now I think it's great!

Mark said...

If truth be known, I would often cut beans in half as an act of spiteful disobedience.

Also, I wanted to acknowledge a "zucchini crisp" that my Aunt Charlene presented to me in Pyrex dish (a customary jesture performed for a nephew studying at university). Tastily resembling an apple crisp, I enjoyed this dessert very much. I'd provide the recipe, but it would require contacting Charlene.

Freya, I hope to see you compete to appear on Gordon Ramsay's "The f Word"; not because it would disrupt your life for 13 months, but because it may provide me an opportunity to meet the gentleman (maybe he'll take his shirt off).

Elle said...

I notice a theme of sorts here...day after day of the same food. Soup, zucchini, what's next. I happen to love the long green squash and currently have way too many seeds in littl soil pots so that I can plant a bunch and have way, way too much zucchini in the summer. There will be days and days of squash and I'll use this recipe and smile at the little brother of carrot cake. Thanks!

D-man said...

Yes, zucc bread is one thing I have definately had my share of over the years. We had plenty of them as kids in the garden and I fondly remembering my mom making bread/cake. Tender and moist, not too sweet, easy to eat more than 4 slices at a sitting kind. During college I had folks give me those enormous ones, and most of the time they would be way too big and become compost. Above, Joyce mentioned lacquering it, that is a great idea when they get so big as they really become more gourd-like in their consistency and get seedy and tough. Stick to the little ones folks. And keep baking! (and send me some, please!)

I'm working on the meme response.......have it up soon!

Freya said...

I see, just to spite me after I struggled to figure out witty responses to 11 comments on the last post I wrote I'm now confronted with 17 comments. AND nothing witty to say. I'll give it a go anyway
Anonymous Mom,
I can't face any soup or zucchini for a little while except maybe chili. Possibly dads chicken noodle soup in a can.
Rebecca,
I would have put up with the flies if only to see the sun during my childhood. Not only were Mark and I chained up in the basement, but the windows were boarded up as well. Kids do have it pretty cushy now.
Zucchini is definitely a polarising vegetable. Why is it the case that things that are enjoyed by a small minority are always abundantly provided by nature?
Ulrike,
German and American English do have quite a bit in common. But the "Queens English" tends to rely heavily on French, despite a professed hatred for them.
It is definitely a cake in every respect, but I can get dieters at work to eat it if I call it bread.
Kathryn,
I left out the nuts because Freya tends to get a stomach ache from them and I knew it was going to be difficult to get her to eat the bread especially if she had a valid excuse. This loaf was a bit too sweet and I would omit half a cup of sugar if I made it again. I'd be happy to send a loaf next week if you're curious.
Kathryn,
I intend to continue. Adult foods just aren't as fun.
Oh, and isn't it insane that I'm so slavish to form that I respond like for like to comments even when they're from the same person?
MyKitchenInHalfCups,
The thing about the bad times as a kid is that when observed objectively they weren't hardships at all...generally. I think as we age we laugh at our own childish lack of perspective.
Can you believe that's the first time I've cooked from that book? Freya only lets me have the kitchen for a couple of hours a week.
Anna Haight,
My selective memory only allows me to remember the beans because they caused me discomfort and the zucchini because I hated it.
Having said that, I remember all the fruit that grew at my grandpas farm and learning the hard way that there is such thing as too many strawberries.
MyKitchenInHalfCups,
This is what I mean. So committed to the format that I'm responding to a duplicate comment. Ah, but I'm not duplicating my response so that must have some redeeming value.
Callipygia,
Freya and I both post and I try to refer to Freya in the first paragraph of all my posts so you know it's not her writing. I always respond to my comments here because I'm a very slow reader thanks to a problem called regression. Freya reciprocates comments on the blogs of visitors because she can read very fast. It would take me months to read what she reads in a day.
Ah, cute yes, but if we ice the bread then it definitely becomes cake and how could I pass it off as healthy?
I'm excited about what I can have drawn!
Katie,
My mom grew up on a Door County farm, but for some reason I can only remember her being able to grow beans and zucchini. Lots and lots of zucchini.
Being from Wisconsin, I bet you didn't have a childhood hatred of cheese.
Joyce,
I remember the zucchini getting bigger and bigger as the summer went on. They're really only good when they're small. I have never had the flowers from them, but they tempt me.
As I stated in an earlier comment, I would reduce the sugar if I made this loaf again.
Chris,
Please let me know how yours turns out. And don't tell anybody it has zucchini in it until they've eaten it. That ruins the reaction.
Toni,
Zucchini relish! Brilliant! Can I get a recipe for that?
Brilynn,
Zucchini must be a weed because everybody seems to have the same experience. Chocolate zucchini cake sounds great! Can your mom send me some?
Mark,
I remember that. Sometimes we just snap them in half and throw the stem half away. Weren't we rebels!
We say a lot of mean things, but I do remember Charlene was a good cook. Too bad about the rest.
Freya is still fighting against sending back her application. Hopefully the opportunity for you to meet your platonic crush will be the incentive she needs.
Elle,
Soup week is fortunately over. It wasn't the soups that became frustrating, but the obligation.
Make sure you build up the zucchini and tell it how great it is and that you don't love him any less than his carrot brother (even if you actually don't).
D-man,
Good zucchini bread definitely cries out to be eaten. You can't help it because it's so balanced, especially with a bit of butter.
Those giant zucchinis are like Jell-o. They practically wobble in your hands. A doorstop might be the only use for these things.
We're anxious to see your meme. I think mine scared a few people off, but it's probably for the best as I couldn't possibly think of any more comical responses to comments.

Thanks everyone who stopped by and left a comment. I need some rest.