Hold on. Not this again. I understand Zucchini Bread deserving it’s own day but why now, in the middle of April? The zucchini seeds haven’t even been planted yet. Don’t the Holiday Gods know that the reason you make zucchini bread is because you have zucchinis you don’t know how to get rid of? This holiday needs to be in the middle of summer, in harvest time, when all those home gardeners are trying to figure out what to do with all their excess zucchini. Not now. Not when you have to go buy ones from the store that are imported from Mexico. This is just bad planning.
A zucchini is a celebration of the home garden. Zucchinis must grow fairly easily (or at least have the best plant yield) because its the one vegetable everyone seems to have a surplus of from their garden. Anyone who grows their own veggies is always trying to dump their leftover zucchinis on you. Not their broccoli or their carrots. It’s always the zucchini. And that’s why zucchini bread was invented – it’s a sweet way to use them all up.
I did think that it was kind of serendipitous that I started today, a day that honored one of the stars of any home garden, by celebrating the act of gardening. I did so by heading to my niece Wavy’s kindergarten class to join her for a little celebration called “Planting with Pops.” This is part of her school’s “Week of the Young Child” celebration (the fact that they were celebrating a holiday like this was also not on lost on me). Planting with Pops was where students could invite in their father, grandfather or special person to do some planting with them in the classroom. Because Wavy’s dad Pete was working, Cherie (Wavy’s mom) asked me to fill in. I couldn’t say yes fast enough. I headed to school this morning dressed in my finest overalls and I got to the lobby right on time. I signed myself in clearing the security check and then marched down the hallway with the other special people en route to the classroom. This was the same elementary school that Lola attended so I have heard tales of this place before but had never been inside. When I walked in, I gave a quick scan of the room and after thinking that all these kids looked alike, I saw a very bright smile beaming up at me from the back of the room. She rushed over to me and gave me a giant hug which kind of melted my heart. We then sat down at her table to await further instructions.
The class took turns planting so one table would go up to the planting area at a time. We were the blue table and were batting third, so in the meantime, the kids were told to read to us. That’s when Wavy opened her books and started reading. There was one about shoelaces, one about a cake that ran away and one about a whole silly chase where a dog had a remote control in his mouth. I couldn’t believe what a reader Wavy was! She tackled every book like she had been reading for years. She didn’t stall on any words and she even had some complex words in the text. She was so proud of herself too. I knew she was a good reader but I had no idea that she was so advanced. I was sitting there in awe, eating paste (just like I had in my kindergarten days). When the blue table was called up to plant, we walked up to the planting table and Wavy took the flower, placed it in the pot, added in some dirt and then spritzed it with water. She was very precise in her work and moved like a pro. In fact, she told me she was a plant expert and I couldn’t argue the point. We took it back to our table when we were done and we both marveled at her fine work.
Wavy told me the flower was a forsythia and I believed her. In fact I asked her who was Synthia and why was she getting the flower? That joke fell flat – apparently she is a little too young for my puns. It turns out however the flower was a marigold, but because Wavy said she was the expert, I assumed she was right. This kid is going to be anything she wants to be because she has the smarts and confidence to get there (plus she is as silly as can be too). It was a brief little segment, almost precisely a half hour in length, but at the very end all the kids went to the front of the classroom and sang us a song. I’m not sure exactly why – maybe it was the voice of children, maybe it was seeing Wavy smile, maybe it was being her special person – but as I watched them all sing, I got a little moved by it all. The lyrics of the song had something to do with it:
Cause It’s a beautiful day just to be alive, A beautiful day so glad that I’ve got
A beautiful day and I’d like to share it with you!
It was such a cute little song of hope that it made me appreciate life and all its little moments. It reminded me of a Woody Guthrie poem that I have hanging on the wall of my office for daily inspiration that goes, “I am out to sing songs that will prove to you that this is your world and that if it has hit you pretty hard and knocked you for a dozen loops, no matter what color, what size you are, how you are built, I am out to sing the songs that make you take pride in yourself and in your work.” Woody was fighting against the struggle we all face, but he always knew the importance of keeping songs in our heart that made you appreciate life. Wavy’s song reminded me of that. I felt so lucky that Wavy had shared her day with me. They always say it’s the little things in life that matter – today it was the little people.
After I said goodbye and got another big hug, I made my way out of the school and then back home with a big smile still on my face. I had an appointment at noon so I had to change pretty quickly and get into that mode, but I was still beaming with pride. I had an oddly busy schedule for the rest of the day that took me to Warwick, Providence and then Westport, so life got hectic after my half hour at school, but I still kept thinking about how sweet it was to be Wavy’s guest. Of course I still had to worry about zucchini bread too, so in my travels, I stopped at the store and begrudgingly picked up a couple of zucchinis that were undoubtedly grown on foreign soil and not in someone’s backyard. It was about five o’clock when I started to make the bread.
I found a recipe online from Yankee Magazine for Old Fashioned Zucchini Bread. Oddly the recipe was originally published back in 2013 on August 4th which just happens to be our anniversary. I’m not sure if that had any significance, but it was one of those odd coincidences. Needless to say, I took that as the sign that this was the recipe I should go with and I did. It was pretty easy too. After having made banana bread and carrot bread, I realized that these kind of sweet breads are basically the same. Same ingredients, same cooking process, and almost the same look when they are done. It really took me no time to throw it together and the only ingredient out of the ordinary was the zucchini which you grate with the skin on and it turns into fine little chunks. The recipe was for two loaves which I didn’t really need, but I didn’t feel like converting the amounts for a half batch so I made the two loaves.
I can’t say I was ever a zucchini bread fanatic and because I don’t really fancy zucchini, I have tried to avoid it. However, in my past it has snuck into my life. I first had it at work when someone was nice enough to bring a loaf in for the office. I think I just saw it sitting in the kitchen where the communal food was kept and I just dug it, not knowing exactly what it was. I’m not very selective when it comes to free food. In any case, I probably ate it before someone told me it was zucchini bread. It was actually pretty good and reminded me of my favorite which is carrot bread. Today, after my zucchini bread had cooled, I cut into it and tried a piece with a little dab of butter on top. This too was good. You don’t actually taste much of the zucchini. You see it in the bread–the green little flakes in your bites–but I think the zucchini just provides moisture so the bread doesn’t dry out. It doesn’t change the flavor. The flavors of the other ingredients come out such as the cinnamon, the sugar, the walnuts and surprisingly the salt. This recipe called for a whole teaspoon of salt which seemed like a lot and I tasted it in my piece, but in a good way. It gave the sweetness of the bread that slight salty finish which was nice. I was a fan. I gave Lola a slice too and she also liked it. Serving it to her at night was not the optimal time for her sweet bread enjoyment however. I think if she has it tomorrow alongside her afternoon cup of coffee, she will enjoy it even more.
Any zucchini bread fans out there? I have a whole extra loaf looking for a loving home.
Today was a day that I will remember for a long time. It just had a few twists and turns in it that will make it stick out in my mind. It all started out on a positive note with a cute, freckle-faced girl greeting me with a big hug in her classroom. Lola and I may not have kids, but we think we make a pretty good Aunt and Uncle team which gives us the joy of being a special person in the life of all our little friends. They all think we are silly and from what we can tell, they like to play with us too. Wavy’s smile today will warm my heart for a good long time. I only wish we had planted zucchinis in class today because that would have been even more appropriate for the day. It’s not often you get to spend quality time with a six-year-old genuine plant expert, so I could have learned something from her. Maybe she is working on a banner crop of zucchinis in her own garden. I’ll have to wait until harvest time, but when that comes around and Wavy gifts us her unwanted ones, I’ll know just what to do with them. It’s going to be a sweet and tasty harvest season whenever it gets here.
Next Up: National Pretzel Day