Ironically, it’s from the cookbook pages of one of the sweetest women I’ve ever known that I bring the first savory recipe to the blog. She’s the same woman who stood beside me 15 years ago showing me how to make her esteemed catfish nuggets, who every week offered my sister and I the latest baked creation from her oven while we sat cross-legged on her carpet watching The Price is Right after school, who showed me the only CORRECT way of washing the dishes, who infused just as much love into her recipes as she did her plethora of flowers welcoming guests into her apartment. It’s because of my great grandmother that this week’s bake was more than just another recipe to develop.
Upon realizing I had leftover zucchini in my fridge last week, the first thought that I had was that it’d be a perfect inspiration for my next post. Almost instantly, I remembered being back in my great grandma’s kitchen, eye level with a fresh slice of bread being offered to me that, to my childhood horror, somehow contained a vegetable inside (I’ve since matured from this apprehension, thank goodness). I called my mom right away and asked her to skim through the pages of my great grandma’s cookbook and send me any zucchini recipes she found. After reading through both a zucchini “apple” crisp recipe and a zucchini onion quick bread recipe, I followed my craving for the savory route. (Perhaps a zucchini crisp will turn up some day on the blog).
For the sake of using what I already had in the kitchen and for keeping the theme of many of my recipes so far–certainly not because there was any room for improvement in this one–I decided to attempt a dairy-free version of her bread. I gathered my ingredients, propped her recipe up on the counter beside me, and began the reminiscent bake.
Cooking something that was crafted by a person you knew and loved is a special experience. Every step you complete brings with it a memory, contributes to a surreal sort of parallel drawn between your hands, your ingredients, your kitchen and those of the loved one years before. As I shredded my zucchini, I pictured my great grandmother’s delicate fingers doing the same and wondered whether she used a similar sized grater. As I stirred the wet ingredients into the dry, I saw her standing at her counter over her own bowl, both of us mixing “just until blended.” When I opened my clouded oven door to slide the pan inside, I imagined her petite body hunched to reach inside her own oven, the one that she kept spotless long past the time her children began scolding that it wasn’t healthy for her to be stooping to clean it. As I waited for the bread to bake, I comically realized the paradox between my lengthy body towering in the center of my kitchen, and her miniature frame that magnified the size of the appliances around her even from my elementary-aged perspective.
I removed the pan carefully and placed it on the stove top to cool. The fresh bread smell and warm, cracked top made my mouth water, and I silently hoped she approved of my work. The moist texture from the zucchini scattered with sweet bites of onion couldn’t be more perfect. I bit into the hot, crumbling piece I cut (of course I wasn’t patient enough to allow more than solid minute of cooling), feeling the satisfaction of bringing a little piece of my great grandma to life on my Friday evening. This is why we must pass down recipes. This is why the prominence of mass-produced products and fickle cooking trends must never stomp out the influence of traditional, family-created, homemade, food. Trade the pre-made salad or grocery store bakery cookie this week, and find someone who has recipes to share. Or take a trip to 2005 Summerville, South Carolina and make this savory bread. Our great grandmothers and grandfathers did their part; it’s on us now.
Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, my God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your mighty acts to all who are to come.
Great Grandma’s Onion Zucchini Bread (vegan version)
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup chopped onion
- 6 TBSP nutritional yeast, plus 2 more for topping
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 3/4 cup fine shredded zucchini
- 2 flax eggs (2 TBSP ground flax mixed with 6 TBSP water left to sit in fridge for at least 5 minutes)
- 1 cup “buttermilk” (1 TBSP vinegar mixed with enough almond milk to make one cup, left to sit at least 5 minutes)
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9″ round baking pan.
- In bowl combine flour, onion, 6 TBSP nutritional yeast, baking powder, salt, and baking soda.
- In a small bowl, combine “buttermilk,” oil, flax eggs, and zucchini.
- Stir wet ingredients into flour mixture just until blended.
- Spoon into greased pan, and sprinkle remaining nutritional yeast on top.
- Bake for 40 minutes in preheated oven.
***For the original recipe, replace nutritional yeast with Parmesan cheese, use real buttermilk, replace flax eggs with real eggs (lightly beaten), and trade the kosher salt for 1 tsp salt