Teresa stood at the edge of her vegetable garden with a smile on her face and her hands
on her hips. She certainly had a bumper crop this year with the perfect mix of sunshine and rain. She made a mental note to again thank Murdoch for allowing her to expand the space. She had read about some marvelous sounding hybrids in the spring seed catalog and wanted to try them all but had finally settled on just a handful of new packets. After all, she still planned on cultivating her old standards: potatoes, beets, carrots, peppers, onions, cucumbers, lettuce, cabbage, yams, peas, green beans, asparagus, broccoli, corn, radishes, parsnips, rutabagas and, of course, tomatoes. Yes, technically cucumbers and tomatoes were fruits but Teresa – like most other folks she knew – considered them a vegetable.
Choosing carefully she decided to add spinach, turnips, butternut squash, cauliflower, celery and zucchini. She was surprised to learn that all types of squashes were also considered fruits! Could she use this tidbit of information to get Johnny to eat them? Teresa shook her head from side-to-side and sighed. She had tried every trick in the book to get Murdoch’s youngest son to eat his vegetables but to no avail. Other than potatoes, corn, red peppers, carrots, and yams – depending if she mashed them with plenty of butter and a touch of brown sugar – she no longer even bothered. He definitely would not eat any green ones! On the other hand, Teresa or Maria never seemed to cook enough vegetables for Scott. If fact, he had been known to pick a few different varieties and bring them in on those days when he came home for lunch and – washing them off a bit – was more than content to sit at the kitchen table and eat them raw. He was particularly fond of green onions, carrots, tomatoes and broccoli in their natural state.
Of course, Jelly had his pumpkin patch over which he was extremely protective having been the victim of practical jokes several times during the last couple years’ Halloweens. Every time something happened to his beloved crop he built the fence higher and higher but it never seemed to alleviate the problem. Although not done maliciously, he took any mistreatment of his private little garden to heart.
This year, Teresa had convinced Maria to teach her how to can. When she announced this exciting prospect at dinner one night, Johnny asked why they called it “canning” when glass jars were used. She didn’t quite know how to answer him and it took both Scott and Murdoch to steer him onto another topic. The women had taken over the kitchen for weeks and no men were allowed. They had made stewed tomatoes, tomato sauce, salsa, corn relish, every flavor pickle they could find a recipe for, spiced beets, pickled beets and even sauerkraut. Every glass jar they could get their hands on had been filled, sealed and wore a neatly printed label. They lined not only the shelves in the pantry, but now nearly every shelf in the cellar was full too. Murdoch even had the boys build her a half a dozen more but it would never be enough. Teresa knew that if she approached her guardian at just the right time and with just the right expression on her face, perhaps she could corral some space in the wine cellar. The Lancer family certainly wouldn’t go hungry this winter! Well, except maybe for Johnny.
Teresa had gone into town just two days ago and ordered more canning jars. There was a new style called “Mason Jars” which had a screw-on lid using a rubber ring to make the seal. They would certainly speed up the process rather than having to seal their old jars with wax. What a mess! The bad news, though, was it seemed everyone wanted them and Jake – the proprietor of the general mercantile – told her it would take at least two or three weeks for them to arrive. Disheartened, Teresa told him to let her know the absolute minute he received them and she would send someone to pick them up.
When she got back to the ranch she informed Maria of the delay. Not wanting to hurt the girl’s feelings – but secretly glad to get a break – Maria told Teresa that there was nothing they could do but wait and that everything would work out. Some of the vegetables were still coming into season and probably wouldn’t be ready until then anyway. Teresa felt better and pitched right in to help Maria with supper.
Teresa donned her wide-brimmed straw hat and picked up a large wicker basket early the next morning after the men had eaten breakfast and left for the range. She stood at the edge of the patch and surveyed the garden. She decided she would pick what vegetables she could that would store over the coming months without being preserved. Soon her basket was overloaded and she made numerous trips between the garden and the cellar with pounds and pounds of potatoes, onions, yams, beets, parsnips, rutabagas, butternut squash and turnips. When Scott and Murdoch returned for lunch, they found the young lady sitting at the kitchen table with her head down on her arms. When Murdoch touched her shoulder, she startled.
“Did you fall asleep darling?” Murdoch was trying hard not to chuckle for when his ward looked up, she had swipes of dirt across her forehead and nose and splotches of it on both cheeks.
“I guess I did doze off . . . a little.” She replied groggily. “I’ve been hauling stuff from the garden down to the cellar all morning. I didn’t realize there would be so much. I guess I really do have a green thumb.”
Scott put his hand gently on one of Teresa’s shoulders. “I know it’s a lot of hard work and I appreciate your efforts greatly. I can hardly wait to start eating those wonderful fresh vegetables.”
Teresa jumped up, her eyes wide and her hat flipping off her head to land on the floor behind her chair. “Eat!” She gasped. “I was so busy I didn’t even stop to think about . . .”
Murdoch grabbed the girl’s hands. “Don’t you worry. Scott and I can make our own lunch. I’m sure there is some of last night’s ham in the cold box for sandwiches. Why don’t you take a break. Go upstairs and take a nice, warm bubble bath. I’m sure you’ve worked harder than most of the hands this morning. You deserve it.”
Teresa’s cheeks grew red. She was extremely embarrasses at her oversight. She looked from Murdoch’s eyes into Scott’s. Both men smiled and nodded slightly. “Okay,” she whispered. “If you’re sure you can manage. I’m so sorry. I promise you a wonderful supper to make up for this.”
Scott was already pulling things out of the cold box and Murdoch had turned to walk over to the cupboard to gathered plates, cups and glasses. Teresa, feeling dismissed, quietly climbed the back stairs and headed down to her bedroom to grab her robe and slippers. Catching her reflection in the mirror she gasped. The thighs of her jeans were streaked with dirt from her rubbing her hands on them. Her plaid shirt was equally as dirty, one sleeve rolled up further than the other. Her face was almost comical with its smudges and smears and her hair was more than bedraggled with long strands – having come loose from her pony tail - sticking out every which way. Her cheeks flamed again!
Teresa made good on her promise and served a fabulous meal that evening. She had even baked a cake for dessert. It was a new recipe and she hoped the men would like it. Teresa herself appeared with freshly washed and styled hair, her recently scrubbed face fairly glowing and dressed in a crisp white blouse tucked into a colorful ruffled skirt. Murdoch and Scott exchanged a wink and a grin before complimenting her. Johnny looked up. Both his father and brother raised an eyebrow at him so he swallowed hastily and, turning to Teresa, mumbled that he thought she looked nice too.
Walking into the kitchen, she returned just a moment later with a large tray in her hands. Scott rose immediately and crossed behind his father’s chair to take it from her hands and set it in the middle of the table. Teresa picked up the cake plate and, smiling proudly, said, “I tried a new recipe. It’s a kind of . . . spice cake. I hope you like it.” She saw Johnny’s eyes light up immediately. Scott passed out the clean forks from the tray and placed the stack of small dessert plates near his father before handing Murdoch the large cake knife. Johnny was practically drooling as he watched his father cut the confection and place a slice on each plate.
After the dessert had been passed, Teresa picked up her fork and held it aloft as she watched the others. Murdoch took the first bite. Closing his eyes, he tilted his head back slightly. “Mmm,” he uttered. “Darling this is wonderful. It’s the perfect ending to a delicious supper.” Grinning, Teresa turned her attention to Scott.
“Oh Sir, you are so right. Teresa this is heavenly. I’m going to have to ask for another serving.” Scott sighed. It was most unusual for the svelte blonde to ask for seconds. As Murdoch and Scott continued to enjoy their cake, Teresa focused her attention on the man sitting to her right. Her brows drew together and the smile disappeared. She found Johnny sitting, fork in hand, staring at the dessert in front of him. Teresa looked up and caught the gaze of both Murdoch and Scott and drew them to the youngest son.
“What’s wrong John?” Murdoch asked, swallowing his mouthful of cake. “I thought you’d be at least on your second helping by now.”
“Yah little brother. You don’t know what you’re missing. Are you feeling okay?”
Johnny looked up at his brother and then turned his head to look at his father. Returning his gaze to the plate he finally spoke. “There’s green stuff in it,” he muttered almost in disgust. Scott and Murdoch each took up a bite on their forks and studied it.
“Yes son, you’re right. I never noticed.”
“Hmp,” Scott uttered. “I guess there is. I was so busy enjoying it I guess I hadn’t noticed either.”
All eyes focused on Teresa. Nervously, she laid her fork on her plate and, dropping her eyes, dabbed at her mouth with the corner of her napkin. “It’s supposed to be like that,” she finally stammered. “The green stuff is just a little bit of . . . of the peel!” Her face lit up as she thought she had offered an explanation that might be accepted.
“Oh,” Scott said, looking at the cake on his fork. “Like the peel on a green apple?” Without waiting for a reply, and – unknowingly – saving Teresa from telling a fib he continued. “Aggie – our cook back in Boston – used to make something like this. She said the peel made it moister.”
“Well, whatever it does, it sure is good.” Murdoch put his forkful in his mouth. Swallowing he looked at his youngest son. “Johnny, you like green apples, don’t you?”
“Just try one bite, son. It really is very, very good.” All eyes turned to watch. Johnny cut off a small corner with his fork then speared it and, pausing for just a split second, put it in his mouth. Gradually, a grin spread across his lips and he began shoveling in forkful after forkful. The three other diners glanced from one to the other and smiled and – ensuring no one else noticed – Teresa breathed an inner sigh of relief. Although prepared to make the argument to the youngest Lancer that he was, indeed, eating fruit, she knew he’d never buy it if she confessed that the “green stuff” in the cake was actually zucchini.
All three Lancer men ate a second helping. Teresa took the remaining cake back into the kitchen, covered it with a clean dishtowel, and hid it in the pantry. She would make sure to include a generous slice in each man’s lunch sack the next morning.
After the men had left the next day and the breakfast dishes had been washed and put away, Teresa made her way out to the garden. What was she going to do? The floor of the pantry was already completely covered with bushel baskets full of zucchini and there were literally hundreds left yet on the vine. She had had no idea how easily these new seeds would grow and how abundantly they would produce. Teresa had already pawned off what she could to the bunkhouse cook and the married hands to take home to their own families. Almost in tears, she approached Maria when she arrived later that day.
“Oh Maria, what am I going to do? I hate to throw them to the swine. The men loved the cake I made with them but I can’t keep making the same cake over and over.”
Maria continued peeling her potatoes as she thought. “I have some recipes at home to use it in different things. I will look for them. I never had use for them before but mi madre cooked with it often when in Mexico.” Seeing the instant relief in Teresa’s eyes, she continued. “I will ask all the las esposas if they have any recipes also. We will think of something. If nothing else, we can load it in a wagon and I will have Cip drive around after midnight the next full moon and leave some on everyone’s porch. They will never know it is Lancer zucchini.” Teresa threw her arms around the woman and squeezed.
“Oh Maria. What would I ever do without you?”
Maria shook her head never missing a stroke with the knife in her hand. “Usted no quiere saber mi querido. Usted no quiere saber!” (You do not want to know my dear. You do not want to know!)
Teresa picked zucchini daily and piled it in the pantry. The following Sunday after church, she gathered all her friends around her and asked if their mother’s had any recipes for using her copious supply. She swore that the squash was multiplying overnight for it seemed the more she picked the more she found the following morning. The girls all agreed to copy whatever recipes they could find and drop them in that week’s mail.
Teresa heard the front door close and then the jingle of spurs on the tile floor. Johnny had gone into town to get the mail and check on her order of Mason jars. He was coming toward the kitchen and found her drying her hands on her apron. She had quickly thrown a clean dish towel over the zucchini she was chopping to include in that night’s supper.
“Wheweee!” Johnny exclaimed before emitting a low whistle. Teresa turned and found his hands overflowing with envelopes. “All these here letters are for you.” He tossed them on the table then quickly stretched out both arms to halt their flow from ending up on the floor. “I know you’ve been battin’ your eyes at some of them young good lookin’ cowhands at the shindigs lately but just how many beaus do you have?” Johnny whistled again, jostling her arm with his elbow. “Does Murdoch know about all these here love letters?”
Teresa blushed and lowered her eyes to the pile before her. “They aren’t love letters. My . . . friends just like to keep in touch, that’s all.”
She picked up a couple envelopes before looking into Johnny’s eyes. “Ahha,” he drawled, winking. She slapped his shoulder with the envelopes.
“Don’t you have work to do?” She hissed.
“I always got work to do.” He answered. Seeing the fire in Teresa’s eyes he continued. “Oh, you mean you want me to go do it. Right now.”
“That would be a good idea, Johnny. Right now.” Tossing the letters back on the pile, Teresa firmly planted both hands on his shoulders and pushed him toward the front door.
“I’m goin’, I’m goin’. Maybe you can share some of your ‘less intimate’ messages with us at supper. I’m just plum sure that Murdoch would be interested in knowin’ . . .” Teresa picked up the nearest thing within reach which happened to be a wet dishrag. Seeing the determination on her face, Johnny quickly turned and trotted down the hall, hearing the rag hit the tile floor just behind him with a “splat”.
“Johnny,” Teresa called after him. “Did my jars come in?”
Johnny opened the front door and held the knob in his hand. With one foot already over the threshold in preparation of a quick getaway, he hollered back “Nope. Jake said another week at least.” Not waiting around for Teresa’s tirade, he leapt out the door closing it quickly behind him. He paused a moment outside and pressed his ear to the wood. Seconds later he heard another “splat” as the same wet dishrag hit the opposite side. He chuckled before trotting over to Barranca, jumping in the saddle and spurring the horse down the road toward the arch.
Teresa held onto the bottom edges of her apron and scooped the letters into the fold it made. She hurried up the back stairs and dropped her load onto her bed. She would make an excuse right after supper of having a headache and spend the evening looking through them. Maybe she had finally found a solution to her ever increasing problem.
Teresa showed up in the kitchen the following morning with a bright smile on her face and a bounce in her step. Grabbing a cup of coffee, she leaned back against the counter and blew on the steaming brew for a moment. When Maria had finished cutting the biscuits and placed the pan in the oven, she glanced around to make sure no one was listening then took a couple steps over to the older woman. “Buenos dias Maria.” She whispered before both women scanned the room once more. “I think I’ve come up with a plan to use up all that zucchini. I got dozens of recipes in yesterday’s mail and I would be willing to bet that the men won’t even realize what they’re eating, especially Johnny.” Teresa took a sip of coffee.
“That is good to hear.” Maria whispered in reply. “Did they like the cake?”
Teresa tried to suppress a giggle. “They loved it. I packed the leftover in their lunch sacks. I must admit I did panic for a few minutes when Johnny suspected something because there was “green stuff” in it but Scott came to the rescue explaining to his brother it was most likely a bit of the skin from green apples.” Both women shared a moment of quiet laughter. “I guess from now on I’ll have to peel the zucchini before I add it so no one will notice. Should still work, don’t you think?”
Maria shrugged. “My Juanito. He is a sly one. He cannot only smell trouble a mile away but vegetables too – at least the green ones!” She waited until Teresa nodded in agreement and swallowed her coffee. “Teresa, I do not mean to complain but when I opened the door to the pantry this morning . . .”
Teresa raised one hand to cup her cheek. “Oh no! Maria! Lo siento tanto. I forgot to warn you. I’ve completely run out of room for all the zucchini I’ve picked. Yesterday I literally had to keep one shoulder against the door and open it only a crack so as to toss in what I had gathered. I don’t know where else to put it. The jars should be here soon and then we can start using it in greater quantities and get it out of the way.”
Maria, in mock anger, waved her wooden spoon. “Only you and I will know how many squashes are in there. We must tell the men to stay out at all costs or we will have zucchini rolling all over the floor.” Teresa nodded and said she would ‘remind’ them at the breakfast table.
After the men left for the day, Teresa went out to harvest while Maria washed the dishes. Again the zucchini had multiplied overnight and she ended up with three more bushel baskets full. Carrying the first one into the kitchen, she set it down and tentatively opened the pantry door only to have a couple dozen of the batch she picked yesterday come rolling out. She quickly gathered them up and tossed them gently into the far corner of the room quickly shutting the door before the next handful could escape. She turned to find Maria wiping a dish and chuckling.
“Help Maria! What am I going to do? I have two more basketfuls outside.”
Maria set the dish down and tossed the towel over the back of the chair. She motioned for the girl to bring her basketful with her and follow her back outside. With purpose, Maria walked around to the back of the house and stopped beneath a small window, placing her hands on her hips. After Teresa put the basket down, she drew her eyebrows together not sure of what Maria was trying to tell her by pointing up at that window. Suddenly Teresa grinned and nodded her head in understanding. Maria went back inside.
Teresa found a small, sturdy crate in the barn. Placing it beneath the pantry window, she gathered an armful of zucchini and carefully stepped onto the crate. Pushing the window in, she braced it by locking the metal hinge then used both hands to gently drop the squash inside. It didn’t take long to deposit all three basketfuls in through the window which she then closed. Stepping down and brushing her hands one against the other, she hid the small crate behind a nearby bush. All smiles, she held her thumb up to Maria as she reentered the kitchen. Teresa was more than pleased at having found a solution albeit a temporary one. She could only hope the men – especially Johnny – would keep their promise to leave the pantry alone but she suspected they would knowing just how ornery she could get if they broke their promise. It was well known throughout the ranch how quickly she could get her anger up and no one would willingly subject themselves to her wrath.
Teresa continued to pick zucchini every morning and employ the unique method of storage. Surely the canning jars would be in by the end of the week and then she and Maria could begin utilizing it in earnest. Each afternoon, Teresa would choose a new recipe and, having kept aside what she needed from the morning’s harvest, would spend hours cooking or baking or both. She tried a couple mixtures peeling the zucchini first before including it but they weren’t too successful so she relented and left the peel in place hoping Johnny would still think it was apple skin. As the days passed, however, she could tell Johnny was getting more and more suspicious. Then one afternoon he caught her red handed.
Teresa was standing with her back toward the door. She had three rather large zucchini lying next to her on the counter and was measuring flour into a large stoneware bowl. She didn’t hear Johnny enter and nearly had a heart attack when he spoke from only inches behind her.
“What ya makin’?” He drawled, resting his chin on her shoulder and looking down into the bowl. Teresa stiffened.
“Muffins.” She replied nervously. “I found a new recipe and they sounded so good. I thought I would serve them with breakfast tomorrow.”
Johnny took a few steps off to her side and picked up one of the zucchini in his hand. “Muffins? With this in them?” His nose wrinkled in disgust as he said the word ‘this’ and studied the item in his hand.
“Yes.” Teresa stammered. “It’s called zucchini. It’s a . . . fruit.”
Johnny gave her an incredulous look. Holding the zucchini in one hand and waving it back and forth he continued. “This ain’t no fruit.”
“Yes it is.” Teresa retorted perhaps a little too quickly.
“If this is a fruit why did you plant it in your vegetable garden?”
Teresa licked her lips and nervously wiped her hands on her apron. “That’s the only place I had room.” She smiled her brightest and, turning to meet Johnny’s gaze, took the squash from his hand and laid it back on the table.
“It ain’t nice to lie to your brother, you know, and it ain’t nice to trick him into eating a green vegetable either.”
Teresa could feel her face flush and quickly searched for something to say to change the subject. “Where are your boots?”
Johnny looked down at his white socks and wiggled his toes a bit. “Left ‘em outside. They’re all covered with cow sh—manure and I need to get something out of my room. Figured you and Maria would tan my hide if’n I tracked it all over your nice clean floors so I took ‘em off.”
“Oh,” Teresa cooed, secretly wishing he would just get what he needed and leave. Finally he turned and took the back steps two at a time and disappeared around the upstairs corner. Teresa released the breath she had been holding. She knew Johnny hadn’t believed her. Perhaps she could bring up the subject at supper. She was sure that Scott would have something to say on the topic.
Teresa finished mixing the muffins and put the first pan in the oven then checked on the kettle of stew cooking slowly on an upper grate. She had chopped up some zucchini and would add it shortly before she served so it would be hot but not so soon as to become mushy. There was – after all – more than one way to skin a cat.
During supper that night, Teresa asked Scott whether he knew that some edibles commonly labeled as vegetables were actually fruits – like tomatoes, for instance. She was greatly relieved when he not only agreed with her but went on to give a detail dissertation.
“Why yes Teresa. There are several varieties of what we refer to in daily conversation as vegetables which are – botanically speaking – fruit. Tomatoes are just one example.” As Scott continued, Teresa looked over to find Johnny studying her. She gave him a smug smile. Teresa loved nothing more than to be right.
Johnny and his brother got into quite a debate until Murdoch rose, walked to the book shelf, pulled out a thick volume and – handing it to Scott – resumed his seat. Scott flipped through it and smiled.
“Well, Johnny. I guess this proves it.” He said triumphantly. “You can look through this book after supper. It even has pictures!”
Johnny groused, took the proffered book and tossed it on the table next to his plate. Johnny hated nothing more than to be wrong.
Teresa continued harvesting and storing. Murdoch went to town the following Friday and brought back the Mason jars – finally! The shipment was disappointing to say the least as out of every dozen at least a couple were cracked or chipped. Teresa sorted out those in perfect condition and packed all the damaged ones to be returned to the mercantile. This shorted her by nearly half her order so – although she and Maria could start processing some of the zucchini – they would not be able to use it all and it still seemed to be multiplying overnight!
Starting the next day, Teresa brought all the new recipes she had received down to the kitchen and Maria brought all the ones she had gathered. The two women sorted them out and planned how to begin using the crop in earnest. Over the next couple weeks one or the other or both made zucchini bread, zucchini biscuits, zucchini fritters, zucchini cookies, zucchini chocolate cake, zucchini cobbler, fried zucchini, baked zucchini, stuffed zucchini, zucchini stew, zucchini soup, stewed zucchini, zucchini slaw, zucchini meatloaf, Mexican zucchini soup, pork and zucchini stuffed green peppers, homemade noodles with zucchini tomato sauce, lemon thyme chicken with zucchini, zucchini chips, tomato zucchini bake, grilled zucchini, zucchini salad, zucchini and asparagus pizza, thick noodles with spicy tomato zucchini sauce, even black bean and zucchini quesadillas.
Commandeering the kitchen for three straight days, they canned zucchini salsa, zucchini pickles, corn and zucchini relish, zucchini spaghetti sauce, even zucchini jelly. All in all Teresa and Maria had collected six hundred and fifty-six recipes.
Although the men didn’t complain outright, Murdoch made a number of thinly veiled comments about how nice it would be to go back to some of his old favorites for supper; that he missed simple beef roast with mashed potatoes, or steak with baked potatoes, or a hearty pork stew. Looking around the table she noticed Scott nodding in agreement and Johnny . . . Well, for a couple nights now, Johnny hadn’t eaten much and when he did take a bite it was more forced than enthusiastic. He didn’t even look forward to dessert anymore because – even though presented in a different format every night – it was still, after all, something concocted out of zucchini. He expected to see that his skin had turned green every morning when he looked in the mirror to shave.
One night Johnny woke up about two o’clock in the morning. He wasn’t really hungry but he wanted something – anything – to eat that did not contain zucchini even if it was a fruit, which he still doubted even though he had read it in his father’s book. Rolling over, he pulled the blanket up over his shoulder and tried to go back to sleep but it was no use. Even just one little bitty taste of a non-zucchini based edible would be enough to satisfy him so he could at least try to get forty winks before the sun came up.
Tossing the blanket aside, he swung his legs over the side of the bed. Yawning broadly, he scratched his head then rubbed the same hand across his stomach a time or two. Pulling on his pants, he tiptoed to the door and opened it slowly praying that the hinges wouldn’t squeak. Peeking down the hall, all seemed to be quiet and no one else was about. He tiptoed out onto the thick corridor carpeting and toward the back stairs. So far so good. He forgot that the third step from the bottom tended to squeak and froze – flattening himself against the wall – to listen but no sounds came from upstairs. Proceeding more carefully, he exhaled the breath he had been holding and stood before the pantry door. Pausing, he remembered his promise to Teresa about not invading her and Maria’s space but – oh hell – she would never know and he felt he had come this far already so . . . His stomach let out a loud growl and Johnny raised his right index finger to his lips. Looking down at it, he uttered a quiet “Shhhh” before looking around to make sure no one had heard.
Johnny stood with his hand on the knob of the pantry door. Guilt and shame washed through his groggy mind but he was alert enough to counter them with several good reasons to proceed.
Murdoch, Scott and Teresa were all awakened at the same time by a low, steady rumble. Struggling into their robes and slippers, their bedroom doors opened within seconds of each other and they stared – sleepy eyed – at each other.
“Was that an earthquake?” Scott asked. The rumbling continued intermittently for a few more seconds then stopped.
“I don’t know.” Murdoch replied. “If it was it was awfully close.”
“Where’s Johnny?” Teresa asked in a panic stricken voice. Murdoch and Scott turned their gaze to the youngest Lancer’s door and saw it closed.
“Probably slept through the whole thing!” Scott scoffed. Just then a faint cry could be heard from downstairs.
“Help! I’m trapped.” Rushing to the back stairs, the three jostled for position with Scott finally pushing himself to the front. Murdoch and Teresa followed close behind. When they reached the kitchen they found Johnny laying spread eagle on the floor almost completely buried under a mountain of zucchini. Scott began laughing hysterically. Murdoch hurried to kneel on the floor beside his son, asking him if he was okay. Teresa raised her left hand and pressed its fingers against her lips.
“Hi Pa,” Johnny muttered. “Can you get me out of here?” Johnny could only raise his head a couple inches to look down and around at the avalanche that had nearly flattened him.
Murdoch glared at Teresa. “Well now that we know everything’s alright, I guess I’ll go back to bed.” She pretended to yawn, smiled sheepishly and turned. Murdoch’s voice stopped her with one foot on the bottom stair.
“Not so fast, young lady. I assume this is your doing and, if it is, we need to have a talk. Go sit down by my desk and wait for me. Understand?” Teresa nodded and quietly slid past Scott toward the great room.
Scott was laughing so hard he was holding his stomach and tears were rolling down his face. “Son, if you can compose yourself for just a moment, would you please help me get your brother free?” Murdoch growled. Try as he could, Scott could not entirely pull himself together but did manage to suppress his mirth long enough to grab Johnny under the arms and pull while his father tried to hold back any further advancement of the tumbling zucchini. Finally free and quickly rolling to his side as – once unrestrained by his father’s large hands – the avalanche began again Johnny took a couple deep breaths. “Are you alright son?”
Johnny nodded and pushed himself into a sitting position, leaning back against the end of the counter. “Yah. Just got the wind knocked out of me is all.”
Murdoch scowled, climbed over the mess on the floor and started down the hall to the great room.
“Boy, I wouldn’t want to be in Teresa’s shoes . . . er slippers . . . right now!” Johnny huffed.
Scott had begun laughing again although as he sunk down to sit next to his brother his
merriment quieted somewhat until it was just a chuckle. He reached out and lightly slapped the back of his hand against Johnny’s stomach.
“I’m glad you think this whole thing . . .” Johnny groused, waving his arm in a wide semi-circle “is funny. I could have been squashed!”
Scott simply turned his head and looked into Johnny’s eyes. “Oh you were little brother. You definitely were.”
* * * * * * * * * *
All the dishes named in this story plus many others – a total of 656 recipes using zucchini can be found at: www.allrecipes.com (type zucchini in the search box)
Napoleon is often credited with the invention of modern canning: in 1795 the French military offered a cash prize of 12,000 francs for a new method to preserve food. Nicolas Appert suggested canning and the process was first proven in 1806. Until 1858, canning jars used a glass jar, a tin flat lid, and sealing wax, which was not reusable and messy!
In 1858 John L. Mason invented the Mason jar. He invented a machine that could cut threads into lids, which made it practical to manufacture a jar with a reusable, screw-on lid. This was the difference between his design and predecessors, the sealing mechanism: a glass container with a thread molded into its top and a zinc lid with a rubber ring. The rubber created the seal, and the threaded lid maintained it.
The ease of use and affordability of Mason jars helped home canning spread across the nation, not only among farmers, homesteaders and settlers, but also urban families, who began family traditions of canning sauces, pickles, relishes, fruit and tomatoes. Sadly, Mason sold off his rights to the jar to several different people and died a relatively poor man around 1900.
Other Brands and date of origin: clamped glass-lid jars 1882; Atlas E-Z Seal late 1800’s; Ball jars – 1883; Kerr 1903
The zucchini or courgette is a summer squash which can reach nearly a meter in length, but which is usually harvested at half that size or less. Zucchini can be dark or light green. A related hybrid, the golden zucchini, is a deep yellow or orange color.
In a culinary context, the zucchini is treated as a vegetable, which means it is usually cooked and presented as a savory dish or accompaniment. Botanically, however, the zucchini is an immature fruit, being the swollen ovary of the zucchini flower.
Zucchini, like all squash, has its ancestry in the Americas. However, the varieties of squash typically called "zucchini" were developed in Italy, many generations after their introduction from the New World. In all probability, this occurred in the very late 19th century, probably near Milan. The alternative name courgette is from the French word for the vegetable and is commonly used in France, Ireland, and the United Kingdom. It is a diminutive of “courge”, French for squash. "Zucca" is the Italian word for squash and "zucchina" is its diminutive, becoming "zucchine" in the plural. However, "zucchino", the masculine form, becoming "zucchini" in the plural, is commonly used in the dialect of Tuscany. "Zucchini" is also used in Australia, Canada and the United States. The first records of zucchini in the United States date to the early 1920s. It was almost certainly brought over by Italian immigrants and probably was first cultivated in the United States in California.