Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Yes, We Have No Zucchini

In 1975 the town I lived in was hit by a drought so severe that the lake that supplied our water dried up. Literally. The whole damn thing, in the most arid summer in memory, was sucked away to wash Dodge Aspens and brand new Pacers.

So we don't drink for a few months. Car looks showroom new!

But the lake dried up. Fifteen to thirty feet deep, dry right down to the bottom. There were a couple of shopping carts near the shore, some sunk logs out in the middle, ice fishing shacks and at least one snowmobile that had seen the first of April pass at its peril. Everything the town had ever ejected into that lake was back for a visit. I was personally surprised that the old man didn't insist I venture out and retrieve every rock I had ever skipped, returning it to the shore where it belonged.

The lake, all for being pretty much in the middle of town, wasn't a focal point for most of the residents. Oh sure, it was there, but you didn't see it unless you specifically went to see it. Apartment buildings ringed its shore and one block in the lake was something you talked about as in remembering when they used to race cars on the ice in winter.

Now you had to pay attention to it because the town restricted water use and when you called to complain what all the fuss was about you were instructed to take a ride down to where the lake used to be.

People gathered at its edge and just stared. Amazed. Where did all the freaking water go? Sure, the apartment dwellers had spent the better part of summer watching water levels drop so, no surprises here. But the rest of us showed up one night in August for a collective "Whatfu?"

We had a neighbor who was running for the World's Most Awful Person and was in the top five finalists, having jockeyed Joe Stalin aside. She is fodder for another day but suffice to say she made our lives resemble so much elbow on pavement in her being a constant, consistent irritant.

Naturally, I sought every opportunity to pay her back in kind.

Even in summer, I was hustled off to bed at a reasonable hour. I think it was ten or ten thirty by the time I was thirteen or so. I'm sure there were friends within my circle that were up later but the hour was excused under the euphemism of my growing body needing rest when in fact my mom needed some kidshutup time. One night during what she called the "finally!" hour, I was laying in bed trying out some new insomnia patterns. These would of course serve me well in later life. In the first half hour of tossing, turning and worrying about Soviet nuclear capability I happened to hear water running. That summer it was as rare as hearing the old man come home and say "let's go to a ball game!" Ever. I got up and ruined the "finally!" hour by asking Mom where water would be running. A quick check of the house and we landed on the same conclusion: Neighbor Awful! Breaking the law. Watering something under cover of darkness. Only one thing to do:

Throw alight the freaking near stadium floodlights the old man had installed in the backyard.

Sent the old girl packing so fast, she left scorch marks on the fescue. The fun of it saved the "finally" hour and bought me a half hour of "Movie of the Week."

The point of all of this is being that my mother can be an awful cook.

As things got drier that August, more draconian conservation measures were brought up. One of which was a shutting down of individual home water feeds. That would leave homeowners to gather cooking water at a local artesian well, be allowed to bathe once a week and use communal toilet facilities. As in Port-a-Johns on each block. Mom decided to make stuffed zucchini to this.

Not really ever having mastered even the culinary basics, she sliced zucchinis in half and filled them with ground beef. Just beef. Spices were something for the Indian family up the street. Maybe a little salt to drive your blood pressure but that's about it. Then into the oven the whole affair goes to have the last shred of flavor driven out of it. And just before serving, now that the family is at the table, bring up the water shortage and use restrictions. Naturally the beef will have browned up and shriveled just a bit on the zucchini half and the half itself will be a little wilted. But no matter, focus on communal toilets and the thought of using them with Neighbor Awful while you plate what surely looks like fresh turd on zucchini halves.


I haven't touched the stuff since.

Bunny on.


Blogger Sis said...

I LOVED Mom's baked zucchini. I'm telling.

4:32 PM  

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