The heat of the summer sun beat down as we fight with the hard ground to bring forth some sort of useable lifeform. All the unwanted pests and weeds have to be delivered from the garden, and holes and trenches must be dug so that the seeds will bear healthy fruit. Day by day, the plants grow as water sinks into the ground and nourishes the little roots. Slowly, one leaf, then two, and eventually a whole vine creeps around the ground, budding and blooming little yellow flowers. The sight of precious buttery buds is always a small sign of hope. Baby zucchinis begin to grow larger until they are ready to be plucked from their home and become a sacrifice on the kitchen table. The fight is long and hard, and the process is not easy, but the end result reminds my family that it is a small price to pay.
The alarm sounds, the door creeks open and shut, and the smell of freshly baked bread fills the air. The toil of tilling, weeding, planting, and watering a backyard garden finally pays off as Mom pulls zucchini bread out and situates the beautiful delicacy on the cupboard. Every fall when the zucchini comes to full blossom and the harvest is finally reaped, the kitchen begins to flood with loaves of Utopian bliss. My mother bakes the bread in such a unique way that the bread remains moist in the center, yet has the slightest crisp on the top crust. This unexplainable masterpiece delivers joy to the taste buds of each of my brothers and sisters as we dive in for a slice lathered in rich, creamy butter. This is a specific kind of happiness that is delivered at every meal and, if we are sneaky enough, sporadic snacks in between. Zucchini bread brings my family closer together and memories arise with each sniff from the kitchen.
The fond memories I have of eating zucchini bread can be traced back as early as elementary school. Once or twice a month, my mother would pack my lunch for me so that I wouldn’t be forced to eat the dreaded “beef’ burrito that somehow made it past health inspection and found itself on the meal rotation in the cafeteria. On that rare, blessed occasion, my mother would make me a generic peanut butter and grape jelly sandwich, pack a pudding or a fruit cup, add orange or apple slices and veggie slices, then top the whole feast off with a rich, thick slice of summer delight.
This tradition started one evening when my grandmother picked me up from school. My mom was on a field trip with my sister and my dad worked late nights, so my grandmother stepped in and saved the day. On the rare occasion that neither parent could grab me from school, MeeMaw volunteered to take me home. The entire way home, my little ten-year-old mouth rattled on and on about how horrible the “beef” burritos tasted and how I’m never going to eat them again because they resembled the stuff my cat puked up all over the floor. When we got home, MeeMaw checked the lunch calendar and marked on her personal calendar the next time the school dared to serve those dreaded monsters. On that day, she gave my mom a prepacked lunch. My mother spiced things up a bit and added a slice of zucchini bread and a short, loving, buddy note. From that day forward, anytime “beef” burritos were on the menu, I would enjoy my personal slice of heaven. Contrary to all concepts of sanity, I actually started looking forward to that frightening burrito.
Something as simple as flavored bread has caused so many memories to be planted and so much happiness to sprout. All the joys of zucchini bread wash away the pains of summer and the labors that is required to grow vegetables. Every weed that must be pulled, every boiling, blistering sunburn acquired, and every drop of sweat, blood, and determination that goes into that patch of land are forgotten in the instant that the bread touches my pallet. I’m already counting the days when I can vicariously live out the childhood happiness of zucchini bread through my own children. I want to share with them this small part of my life that has been beautifully baked on even some of my earliest memories.