Zucchini: A Hate Story

August 8th, 2011 · 31 Comments · Dinner, Domestic Affairs, Quick, Sides, Salads, Soup, Vegetarian

Dear Jenny,

This might sound paranoid, but one can never be too safe. I have this feeling that some kind of shadowy, proxy war has broken out in our house lately. It’s small, seemingly innocuous things that, when I add them up, suggest something more ominous might be afoot. It’s coming home every Saturday morning from the farmer’s market, unpacking the loot, and finding two or three large zucchinis staring up at me from the bottom of the bag, zucchinis I was not aware were purchased. (The old Trojan horse strategy.) It’s telling me, again, how popular the “green fries” post continues to be with DALS readers (so weird!), and asking me, all innocent-like, if we should throw a little zucchini on the pizza tonight before it goes bad. (Classic psy-ops technique.) It’s standing in the kitchen, and hearing you say, “Mmmm, this looks delicious, we have to make this sometime, look,” only to realize that the recipe you’re pointing to is for something called “zucchini crudo,” which, upon closer inspection, is really just raw squash, sliced thin, with a little lemon juice drizzled on top. And it’s somehow always managing to say this in front of your little agent provocateurs, who then respond, (as if) on cue, “Daddy hates zucchini!”

No, Daddy does not hate zucchini. Daddy does not have the energy to hate zucchini. Zucchini is not worthy of hate. (Garlic mashed potatoes, on the other hand…) Here’s an attempt to clarify my position, once and for all: I would never willingly choose to eat zucchini. I find zucchini bland. Bland can be okay, but I also find it kind of flaccid and soggy, and it’s that soggy, slightly gelatinous quality, that weird spongy texture, when combined with the blandness, that keeps it from rising even to the level of inoffensiveness. Zucchini, to me, is the Three and a Half Men of vegetables: Can I endure it, if absolutely necessary? Yes, I can. Do I enjoy putting it in my mouth? No, I don’t. Will I swallow it whole in order to get it down because of said mushiness issues? Yes, I will. I mean, have you ever heard anyone take a bite of zucchini, drop the fork, and say, “Holy sh@t, that zucchini is INSANE?” Because I have not. But, honestly, I feel like you know this already. We’ve been married thirteen years, and my position vis a vis zucchini has remained steadfast. (About as steadfast as your position on bell peppers and olives, for the record.) Which makes me wonder: why the renewed guerilla campaign? Why all the subterfuge? When you say you love zucchini, and resent that you hardly ever get to eat it anymore because I don’t really like it: what, exactly, do you love about it? Help me out here. I want to know. Or is this, getting back to the proxy war thing, not about zucchini?

Love,
Andy

Dear Andy,

It would be naive of me to think that when we got married, that there would be no trade-offs. I get this. I expected this. It would have been unrealistic of me to think that we’d agree on everything or that I could somehow convince you to agree with me on everything. So when it comes to your hatred of zucchini, I try to stave off my resentment by reminding myself how miraculous it is that a New York girl found a Virginia boy who grew up loving the Yankees. I’ll take a Yankee fan over a squash lover any day of the week. Even a Yankee fan who keeps forgetting to drag the recycling bin to the curbs on Wednesdays.

But you are not imagining things — I have been bringing home a lot more squash lately. You’re also right that it’s not really about the zucchini. Nor is it about waging some sort of proxy war. (Really? Don’t you know by now that when I have something to say I am extremely mature about saying it in an open and direct manner.) My return to zucchini has nothing to do with being resentful over your inability to remember the recycling! Nothing at all.

It has everything to do with where it takes me when I eat it. You know your favorite scene in Ratatouille? The one where the critic Anton Ego takes a bite of the titular dish and it whooshes him back to his childhood dinner table in the French countryside? That’s the best way I can explain to you why I can’t just let zucchini drift out of our rotation. And why I requested a big mound of it shredded and sauteed alongside a bowl of skinny buttered egg noodles for my birthday dinner last year. (Thank you for swallowing that dinner whole.) And why when I am home for lunch all by myself, I often fry up a chopped zucchini in olive oil, red pepper flakes, garlic and a light dusting of flour, top with a fried egg, salt and pepper, then eat the whole thing standing up in the middle of the kitchen. Just like I used to in my childhood kitchen in the Southern Westchester countryside.

It’s not about the flavor or the texture, which I’ll give you is not exactly optimum. It’s about coming home on a summer night with my pony tail still wet and dripping on to my tennis whites, swinging open the back screen door, and seeing my Mom, apron over her work clothes, sizzling some zucchini spears with olive oil and garlic. And if that doesn’t make sense, perhaps I need to direct you to your own mother’s breaded pork chop recipe ca 1981? The ones you are so sentimental about that you wrote 600 poetic words on them for Bon Appetit? Get it now?

Oh, and one more thing. That zucchini “crudo” is more than just thinly shaved zucchini with lemon juice. There’s a hefty drizzling of olive oil, some salt, pepper, shaved Parmesan, and a handful of chopped mint. But since I never once ate this now incredibly popular dish as a 12-year-old, I will have to agree with you and say…it is kind of awful. The other night when I polished off the whole platter by myself I did so because I was too proud to admit that you were right. I swallowed every bite whole.

Love,

Jenny

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31 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Lisa (This Little Piggy) // Aug 8, 2011 at 9:09 am

    Funny I just made chicken schnitzel nuggets for my kids and the smell and taste took me right back to my childhood!

  • 2 amber // Aug 8, 2011 at 9:42 am

    A favorite summer salad: Shredded zucchini, cubed mozzarella, toasted walnuts, diced tomatoes, basil, balsamic vinegar, all tosses with angel hair pasta, a little salt and plenty of fresh ground pepper.

  • 3 Melissa@Julia's Bookbag // Aug 8, 2011 at 10:40 am

    Ok I will be eating this zucchini-with-egg-on-top VERY SOON!! This looks so great! (I have an Egg Problem :) Awesome post!

  • 4 Meg // Aug 8, 2011 at 12:07 pm

    What does Andy have against garlic mashed potatoes?

  • 5 Mamaholt // Aug 8, 2011 at 12:11 pm

    I just saw a recipe for Chocolate Zucchini CAKE on Soulemama.com and thought it looked good. I linked to the breaded pork chop recipe post from this and it made me all teary. I don’t know why, really. PMS, maybe? No, just knowing that some day my little boy might have memories like this of me in the kitchen. sniff. Great post.

  • 6 andy // Aug 8, 2011 at 12:21 pm

    Meg — it’s the garlic! In my mashed potatoes!

  • 7 jenny // Aug 8, 2011 at 12:24 pm

    I should also note that the zucchini-egg number on top of pasta is an exceptionally delicious summer dinner. I am forced to eat it only at lunch by myself because:

    -Abby hates Eggs
    -Phoebe hates Pasta
    -Andy hates Zucchini

    But it shouldn’t stop you!

  • 8 MemeGRL // Aug 8, 2011 at 1:53 pm

    there is a cheesy zucchini pizza recipe out there that has made my summer delicious.
    http://www.eatliverun.com/cheesy-zucchini-pizza/
    And this is my go-to recipe of every summer:
    http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Corn-Zucchini-and-Tomato-Pie-103231
    And the Bitten Word guys convinced me on this one:
    http://www.thebittenword.com/thebittenword/2011/07/skillet-eggs-with-squash-.html

    Here’s the funny thing: I would generally say I’m not a zucchini fan. But I love every one of those recipes.

    Did you know today is the official “Stick a Zucchini on Your Neighbor’s Porch” day? It’s true! Andy, you have an out.

  • 9 Brittany // Aug 8, 2011 at 2:20 pm

    You guys crack me up..

  • 10 Gretchen // Aug 8, 2011 at 5:02 pm

    I’m with Andy on the zucchini….but not the Yankees! :)

  • 11 Nicole // Aug 8, 2011 at 5:27 pm

    My daughter planted 9 (yes, 9!) zucchini plants for a biology project this summer. We also belong to a CSA, so we are absolutely swimming in zucchini. My family doth protest! Last week I served “Zucchini 3 ways” for dinner: zucchini crudo, zucchini basil soup and zucchini ricotta galette. I said, “pretend you are a fancy restaurant and this is on the chef’s tasting menu”. They didn’t buy it…especially when I served lemon rosemary zucchini bread for dessert! I am slyly leaving this open on the computer!

  • 12 Kendall // Aug 8, 2011 at 6:29 pm

    This is hysterical, and a situation I think every couple understands. Andy – my boyfriend loves zucchini, and I actually HAVE heard him say, “That zucchini is INSANE!” before. Here is our favorite way to eat the veggie, and maybe you may think differently, too. It’s very simple: cut them in half length-wise. Poke holes in them, and spread softened butter on them. Grill until they’re charred, and add pepperjack cheese on top. We’ve also done it with a mix of “Italian” cheeses, too. It’s quite fabulous that way. I hope you try it, and enjoy :)

  • 13 monica // Aug 8, 2011 at 6:36 pm

    ya…zucchini’s tough. A fried egg could definitely help, but what couldn’t be helped by a fried egg? This post is hilarious.

  • 14 Nancy @Rivertree kitchen // Aug 8, 2011 at 7:35 pm

    1. Cut zucchini lengthwise into thick slices, drizzle with olive oil, and grill until deep brown, sweet and smoky. 2. Shred equal amounts of zucchini and potato, mix with an egg and a bit of flour, and make crispy zucchini-potato pancakes (recipe on rivertreekitchen.com). If those don’t change your mind, I surrender peacefully.

  • 15 Ali // Aug 8, 2011 at 8:05 pm

    I LOVE roasted zucchini. It’s my favorite vegetable side dish. :)

  • 16 Stacy // Aug 8, 2011 at 8:21 pm

    Too funny! Loved the post!

  • 17 Nancy // Aug 8, 2011 at 8:44 pm

    Jenny–maybe zucchini snickerdoodles could win Andy over!

  • 18 Kate // Aug 8, 2011 at 8:51 pm

    I am not a zucchini person, and, as much as I try to hide this fact from my children, I am not really a vegetable person at all. However, this is one recipe that made me wish I had MORE zucchini in the house. Seriously!!

    http://annies-eats.net/2009/09/15/sauteed-shredded-zucchini/

  • 19 30 and counting // Aug 8, 2011 at 11:20 pm

    Garrison Keillor talks about how zucchini time is the only time of the year people in my neck of the woods lock their car doors. My dad has a box full of it labeled “free” at the end of his driveway, which would be more effective if he didn’t live on a cul-de-sac with only five neighbors. And his fried zucchini IS INSANE. Andy, do you hate even the tiny ones? So much better than the big ones. They taste so deliciously green. Mmmmm.

  • 20 Jen // Aug 8, 2011 at 11:34 pm

    In an attempt to get more veggies in my 3 yo sons diet, I shred/grate an entire zucchini and add it to a full jar of pasta sauce and simmer on low. My son loves it and there is no squishy soggy zucchini ickiness to it. I make this and put it over angel hair pasta about 2x/month. We both love it!

  • 21 zukes // Aug 9, 2011 at 10:55 am

    grated with dill and sour cream, chilled

    thank each other later

  • 22 zukes // Aug 9, 2011 at 11:01 am

    ^^you should probably drain it first (soak in salt in a colander)

    (I just think it’s funny that people insist on recipes despite your fantastic manifesto.)

  • 23 Stephanie // Aug 9, 2011 at 1:42 pm

    This picture inspired to me to make my grandmother’s recipe for squash and eggs. Saute zucchini and onion in olive oil, simmer in tomato sauce & poach some eggs on top – and eat with a crusty piece of italian bread! so good!

  • 24 Cay // Aug 9, 2011 at 2:58 pm

    OMG. I am a Virginia girl who loves zucchini, and grew up on squash casserole (admittedly way fuller of sour cream, butter & croutons than squash), who found a Vermont boy who grew up on canned asparagus and frozen peas (no lie), who (to his credit) likes many many vegetables, but seems to feel EXACTLY the way Andy does about zucchini. I love you guys.
    ( I often add sauteed matchsticks of zucchini to my spaghetti dinner, sighing as the others happily go without. That lunch looks INSANE!)

  • 25 amber // Aug 9, 2011 at 9:31 pm

    I have to agree about the sauted zukes with anything topped with a fried or poached egg! YUM

  • 26 Suburban Homestead // Aug 10, 2011 at 12:20 am

    You guys are awesome…love the blog.

  • 27 Zoe // Aug 10, 2011 at 1:33 pm

    This is great! I love the story and im always looking for zuke recipes because my roomate has selective taste for veggies and zuke just happens to be one of them!

  • 28 Sara // Aug 11, 2011 at 1:30 pm

    My boyfriend doesn’t like zucchini either! But the zucchini with egg looks incredible – and so do all of the other recipes posted here! I am definitely going to be making this in the very near future!!! :)

  • 29 eva // Aug 12, 2011 at 11:05 am

    Hi Jenny,
    I’m a newcomer, excited about your great blog (learned about it from pal, Joel Lovell). In any case, I’m a zucchini LOVER and I want to make that dish with the egg. Yum. Is the recipe on here somewhere and I’m too much of a dolt to be able to find it? Thanks!

  • 30 James Boelter // Aug 12, 2011 at 4:53 pm

    Easily the best skewering and dismissal of this flaccid, boring, ratatoullie-fodder I’ve ever read. Well done, sir!

  • 31 Janetxb // Aug 20, 2011 at 12:53 pm

    Last night I made walnut-dill-granny-smith-chicken salad to serve in pita for dinner. Oh yes, and celery, too. Although my husband hates celery, I seemed to remember that he really liked that salad in spite of the celery. And the recipe called for an entire cup, and I didn’t want to think about substitution. Plus, I love celery. I thought I could ‘get away with it’. I was wrong. Whether it was the current line-up of the planets or his taste being altered because of allergies or whatever…. I got quite an earful about how much he dislikes celery and never wants to eat it again and by the way he’s been telling me this for 34 years…..

    After dinner I whipped up another batch of the salad with NO celery and extra Granny Smiths.

    Then, settled down in the living room, I began to peruse your site and came upon this entry. I laughed so hard that I snorted, read the whole thing to him, and he loved it too.

    Perfect timing! Thanks.

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