The Great Zucchini

Growing up, I spent a week or so of every summer at the Shore. Often, this very week—which I know because we’d be sitting in the den, in front of the old tube TV, wondering whether Agassi or Sampras would take Wimbledon that year.

By the Shore, of course, I mean the New Jersey Shore; and if you grew up somewhere between Fairfield and Philadelphia, then you can probably picture the scene. The drive along the Garden State Parkway that, for reasons unclear, may take either two or six hours—and if the latter, will make you question every life choice that has led you to this moment. Counting the water towers. Wondering at the exit sign for Cheesequake State Park. (Not a typo; this is a true thing.) Lunch at *that one* rest stop. The abating traffic, but then, the slow crawl across the Manahawkin Bay Bridge. And finally, finally the island—all surf shops and snack bars and houses just awakened, after spring.

My grandparents had a Victorian on the southern end of LBI that was both very beautiful and very old. A white exterior, with black shutters and a sweeping front porch; a driveway of smooth, pale stones. So many rooms—all, somehow, filled. Indoor bathtubs but outdoor showers (character!). Central air: a thing for other people, somewhere else. There were twelve bedrooms that they had rented to college kids in the seventies (stories, there), but by the time their children were grown and had children of their own, they were ours alone. And in late June or early July, my family and my mother’s siblings and their families would all descend on the house like so many fireflies.

There’s so much from those years that I remember, still. Boogie boards dragged to the beach. Patches of dune grass. The hammock. The mosquitos. Late afternoon bike rides, and skinned knees.

My grandmother’s zucchini bread—wrapped in foil on the kitchen table, waiting for you, for whenever you might arrive.

I keep a small collection of her recipes with me, and there are a few that I always return to—vegetable lasagna, oatmeal muffins, banana bread. The zucchini bread that she made those summers at the Shore, though, is one I’ve left untouched. I’m not quite sure why. But yesterday afternoon, I stumbled on the recipe and got to work; and, without meaning to sound too sanctimonious, if you put one thing into your oven this week, it should be this one. (Good Lord. The smell alone.) I wish I could say that the zucchini came fresh from my garden; but hey, maybe next year.

I hope you’ll enjoy this recipe that, for me, means family and salty air and slow, simple living—summer, in a word.

Ebbie’s Zucchini Bread
Makes two loaves.

• 3 cups flour*
• 3 eggs
• 1 cup canola oil
• 1 cup sugar
• 2 cups peeled (or unpeeled) and grated zucchini
• 2 tsp. vanilla
• 2 tsp. cinnamon
• 1 tsp. salt
• 1 tsp. baking soda
• 2 tsp. baking powder

1. Preheat your oven to 350F. Grease and flour two loaf pans.
2. Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Mix until blended.
3. Fill pans with batter.
4. Bake for one hour.

*I used whole wheat because it’s what we keep around the house, but all-purpose should do just fine.


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