‘Every harvest, every farm woman I know says the same thing: ‘Next year, I’m not planting so gosh darn much zucchini!’ But spring comes; the garden gets plowed; the warm, black soil is sprawled out under the sunshine; and sure enough – in goes the same amount of zucchini. Then when harvest comes, recipe after recipe is dragged out and tried; neighbors are busy on the phone giving zucchini away to neighbors.” – That’s how Wisconsin farm woman turned restaurant owner, Helen Myhre, introduces her recipe for ‘Mad Zucchini Bread’ in her cookbook written with Mona Vold, Farm Recipes and Food Secrets from the Norske Nook

Helen’s recipe for zucchini bread turns the common garden fruit into a breakfast delicacy. Here it is:

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla (almond) extract
  • 2 cups grated, unpeeled zucchini
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
  • 1 cup peanut oil

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and sugar.

Add the eggs, vanilla, zucchini, nuts, and oil. Mix well using a wooden spoon. Ppour into 2 generously buttered and floured loaf pans.

Bake for 50 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out dry.

I’ve never met anyone who didn’t rave about Helen’s zucchini bread. And like Helen I suppose, the recipe is very flexible and forgiving.

When I lack sufficient zucchini, compensating with carrots adds extra texture, sweetness, and color. When the vanilla went AWOL from the cupboard, almond extract stepped in and is now my preferred extract flavoring. I even once completely left out all the oil and we still liked it, – the neighbors did too! I admit however, that my sweet-tooth is not as large as Helen’s restaurant customers’. I routinely use less sugar than Helen’s recipes call for. But it’s O.K. – people rave about my zucchini bread too.

And although our family’s alphabet game has finished, and I need not cook more ‘Z’-foods, today I’m baking mad zucchini bread because of its end-of-summer abundance. Like Helen and the folks in Osseo, Wisconsin, neighbors here have been giving away zucchini, tomatoes, cucumbers, and whatever other vegetables over-grew their gardens.

In some work-places, employees bring in zucchinis and put them on the break-room table as a free offering to others. Their mind set is ‘better to share than to waste’. As soon as one person starts this practice, other gardeners join in and sometimes a break-room table can resemble a farm stand. Non-gardeners, having enjoyed their co-workers fresh produce, periodically reciprocate with bagels, baked goods, and candies. And this wonderful, bountiful break-room table is why we all get fat and very, very happy.

But the hurdle to establishing this break-room sharing is getting someone to be the first to give. Being the first is the scary part. An empty break-room table is just that, – empty. For the gardener contemplating laying down the first zucchini, no sweet reward is at hand ready to be picked up in return. Nor is any promise of future reciprocity ensured. The gardener holding zucchini must decide whether to release them to the table, or take them home and make zucchini bread, – which by the way freezes very well. The weight of this decision, the uncertainty of the answer to the question: ‘If I give up something now, will I later be in need?’ creates anxiety.

I once knew a man completely unfettered by such anxious thoughts. I met him at college. I think he had graduated, but I’m not sure. Anyway, he hadn’t left the alma mater, and instead frequented the co-ed fraternity to which I briefly belonged. I’ll call him J. J. was quiet, low-key, easy-going. Guys generally liked him, and I guess girls did too, -although his out-of-the-corner-of-the-eye leer made girls and animals nervous. A psychologist might say J. had trouble with boundaries. If he recognized them, he didn’t always observe them.

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