When Jerry's mother gave us a zucchini from her garden last week, which happened to be the biggest specimen I've ever seen in my entire life -- big enough that if it had been sitting in my parking space, I just might've tried to climb in and put my key in the ignition -- I decided a simple slice and saute with garlic and olive oil wouldn't do it justice.
This thing needed to go out in style.
So I dug through my mom's old recipe box to make her killer zucchini bread for the first time. I know I'm mathtarded, but I calculated I could make 947 loaves with this one vegetable and feed the entire neighborhood. Or make Jerry crazy and hold a bake sale off our front porch.
Either way, it sounded like the perfect solution to the giant green thing forming a dent in our kitchen counter.
Then I looked at the recipe, lovingly handwritten on an index card in my mother's cursive:
Seriously. That's it. No directions. Not even proper abbreviations. I mean, who's to say "powder" isn't cocaine? A quarter teaspoon of the white stuff just might be the reason I've found it to be so absolutely addictive all these years.
And it offers no help whatsoever in the zucchini department. Diced? Sliced? Shredded? Pulverized? Squeezed in a juicer into liquid? Or maybe I'm just supposed to toss the thing in whole.
And the method? Cram everything into a bowl, set it and forget it? Like the crazy rotisserie on the late-night infomercials that does everything short of buy the gigantic slab of meat for you?
Part of me wanted to place the entire zucchini into one of my never-been-used bread tins, sprinkle the other ingredients around it, then put it in a 350 degree oven. Forever. Because there's no indication of how long it should stay in there. Then, after a few weeks when it hardened into a molten globule, I'd mail it to my mom with a sticky note attached: "Followed your instructions. Enjoy!"
This, of course, isn't the first time I've run into a problem with my mother's recipes. There was that incident with the nutmeats in April.
But the rational side of me knows her recipes aren't the problem. It's her cooking skills. The woman could bake this bread in her sleep, so the fact that she even has the ingredients written down at all should humble me. I should be GREATFUL she's even willing to share the secrets to her culinary genius. I should frame the zucchini bread ingredients and spend the rest of my life tirelessly trying to figure out how to form them into some sort of edible substance.
Instead, I just gave up immediately, realizing I'll never cook like she can, not even close, not even if I live to be 2,000.
So I searched for another recipe.
Remembering an excellent roasted vegetable casserole she makes on occasion, I flipped through until I found it. This one had its own issues -- including some ingredients I know she never uses and others that I know she does and were nowhere to be found -- but at least it had actual portions, somewhat discernable abbreviations and directions on how to combine them.
After a few hours that can only be described as complete kitchen chaos, I ended up with something that vaguely resembles my mother's casserole. Sure, mine was super runny because it didn't say to drain the stewed tomatoes. And I used the entire zucchini, which could've been broken down into 17 pans instead of just one. But, luckily, it tasted completely delicious, even though it was missing something. I just couldn't put my finger on what.
I called my mom to ask.
"Breadcrumbs. ... I sprinkle some on top with the cheese."
"I hope you know it's not on the recipe."
"I knew something was missing, but if you had said 'nutmeats' I was going to kill you."