battle 5–zucchini

After I gave Previously-at-Risk-of-Becoming-Formerly-my-Biggest-Supporter-but-Suddenly-in-Danger-of-Becoming-a-Naysayer Melissa R. (you can just call her P.A.R.O.B.F.M.B.S.B.S.I.D.O.B.A.N. Melissa R. for short) a hard time for not being appropriately supportive enough last week, she decided to redeem herself and revive her status as my biggest supporter by baking for me this week. And to be honest, our relationship works best when she’s the one cooking for me.

I met Melissa five years ago when David and I bought the house across the street from her and her husband, Jon. One day not long after we moved in, I looked out the window and saw David chatting them up on the street. Fearing the worst, I rushed out to make sure he wasn’t soliciting our new neighbors to help him burn down the abandoned house next door to us. He was. Jon was more than eager to help. Too eager. A bromance was born. Melissa and I, on the other hand, consummate mature, adult, professionals that we are, scoffed at them and then made a date to watch Desperate Housewives and gossip about our neighbors. A lady-mance was born.

Then one day David went out of town. While he was gone, Melissa brought me cupcakes. And cookies. And definitely cake, my favorite. Yum. When David returned from his trip he asked what I ate while he was gone.

I kind of fudged and hedged before answering… “Cupcakes. Cookies. Cake.” I smiled.

David travels pretty extensively for work and I’m left to fend for myself for days and weeks at a time, oh woe is me. And back then, before three weeks ago when I learned how to cook, unless the house was stocked to the gills with cheese and crackers I…mostly….didn’t…eat.

So we had to have what can really only be described as a family meeting with Melissa. “Look, whatever you feed her while I’m gone is all she’ll eat; please feed her more than cake.” I took total exception to this, because I love cake so goddamn much and really wished David hadn’t rained on that little parade, but Melissa now had a de facto responsibility to keep me alive, and she’s been feeding me ever since. But, since we’re the real grownups in our marriages and we’ve never conspired to burn down a house (that you know of), she still treats me to cake every time. Take that, David!

zuke bread

So for zucchini week, really before the week even started, she showed up with freshly baked zucchini bread, all moist and cake-y and delicious and yummy. Zucchini was won before the week even started, because it was in cake.

And she made me dinner last night, too. Zucchini, in. Melissa, in.

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battle 5–day 1–zucchini

So after a couple of weeks of vegetables (or fungi) that had several varieties or were challenging because they were fake and I really had to work to incorporate them into a main meal, I’m back to a regular vegetable this week: zucchini. As far as I know zucchini is zucchini is zucchini, so I don’t need to experiment with different colors or types, although I’m sure as soon as I say that someone will point me to some totally obscure site with about a thousand varieties of gourmet, fancy pants, heirloom zucchinis. I don’t care about those. I only care about the ones they sell at Publix.

I got some really good suggestions for this week, and I thought I might have a hard time narrowing down the choices (I could just see myself spending the week baking muffins and bread and cakes….mmmmcakemyfavorite) until my sister came out of nowhere extolling the yumminess of beer battered zucchini fried in bacon fat. I didn’t really need to hear much past ‘beer,’ before agreeing that was an awesome idea, a great way to start the week, but it did sort of make me think: what is my own sibling—flesh-and-blood of the same two parents who raised me to eat like a freak—doing eating zucchini? Traitor. We definitely need to come back to this.

But before I could really get into dinner tonight, into frying, I had to do more research and preparation than I have for my other meals. The breadth of my cooking knowledge and experience is pretty limited and has proven challenging as I get further into this project, but I am at least nominally aware of basic recipe instructions (like, I can boil water, but I have no idea how to tell when what is in the boiling water is done…boiling?). For frying—despite the fact that learning how to fry every vegetable under the sun should have been a rite of passage here in the sunny South—my awareness is all but nonexistent. My only experience with frying is the occasional egg (does that count? is that actually fried?), which I’m terrible at, and at a couple of Super Bowl parties we deep fried turkeys (and anything else in the house that seemed fry-worthy after a few drinks) in Jon and Melissa’s turkey fryer. And by ‘we’ I mean someone other than me. So for zucchini week, Battle 5–Day 1, I needed to learn me how to fry some shit, real quick like.

To do this I turned to my best friend and fellow Southerner, Lauren, who is a consummate supporter, except during pepper week, and actually cucumber week, too, but who is mostly just my best friend. We’ve known each other since we were knee-high to a grasshopper (or toddlers in layman speak) and she’s never steered me wrong (although, she was present for the peanutbutter on the steak incident and she didn’t discourage me from doing that; I’m not saying she should be held responsible, but that’s a pretty close call). Although she won’t say it, I know it has really pained Lauren, who is basically a vegetarian, that I’ve been so aggressively anti-vegetable for so many years, and I think she appreciates that I’m finally starting to act like a grown up, now that we’re 22. Er, 24. Twenty-seven, we’re 27 and that’s my final offer. So when I asked her how I should make my fried zucchini she told me right away that I could have her fry daddy.

My. Very. Own. Deep. Fryer.

frying zucchini

I felt a little faint. I mean, it wasn’t in my possession yet and I didn’t know how to use it and I had no idea if I would singe my eyebrows off, but do you know what all you can make in a deep fryer? We’re not talking about tossing that shit all half-assed in a skillet on the stove, people; we’re talking a real, honest to goodness vat of bubbling hot oil. Besides fried zucchini I could make fried okra, fried avocado tempura, fried snickers, fried cheese, fried pickles (who knows?? I might like them if they’re fried!), french fries and….and that’s when I had the brilliant idea to have a fried food night. I would make fried zucchini and all that other awesome amazingness.

Because I could.

fried zucchini

And here’s what I learned almost immediately about frying food…it’s fucking glorious. You know what’s so glorious about frying food? The temperature and speed. Hot and fast. It’s the perfect way for me to cook. I don’t know why I’ve never fried anything before.

Melissa R. finally accepted my offer for dinner and she and Jon came over, bowl of mac-n-cheese in hand since Jon still won’t eat my vegetables, and we mixed and matched batters and vegetables and fried the nutrition right out of those earthy creatures all night. Tonight was the messiest, tastiest, most hodge-podge of all my meals, but I’m so super glad frying finally made its way into the mix. Now I know if I’m ever struggling with any of my vegetables, I can just toss them in the fry daddy and call them won.

okra and zucchini

Deep fried beer battered zucchini, won, won, won. Yum.

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