One of the things I love most about food is how easily it can evoke certain memories within us.
This summer, I’ve been volunteering with an amazing breastfeeding group in Providence, called Baby Cafe. We always have snacks available for the attendees, and one of the toddlers offered me some of his animal crackers, which I hadn’t had in a long time. They were in the little red cardboard box with the string (does anyone remember these??!)
At my first taste, I was thrown back to grocery shopping with my Mom at Stop and Shop, and munching on them while in the supermarket cart seat.
Its long been known that memory recognition can be triggered by taste and smell, but I still find it to be pretty miraculous.
For me, this zucchini salad happens to be one of those foods. Here’s why:
A few years ago on an August morning, I woke up in a hotel room in the middle of Washington D.C. with a lot on my mind. I stayed the night in D.C. to break up the 12-hour drive to Rhode Island from Goldsboro, NC, where I had spent the summer completing a sustainable agriculture internship (that’s me in the orange shorts posing on the tractor). That morning, I woke up super early to finish and submit an essay in my online class before rush hour started.
But this wasn’t just any essay- it was the last assignment in the last class of my undergrad career. Once I handed it in, my bachelors degree would officially be completed. And on that day, I was rushing home especially fast because my long-distance boyfriend, who had been living in California for a year, would also returning home to RI for good on that very same day. And in just a few short weeks, we would together embark on a cross-country road trip of our own- to live and work in Washington State.
As I was completing the assignment, one of my good friends texted to me to tell me that she wished I was coming home because she had an extra ticket to Newport Folk Festival the following day, with no one to give it to. For anyone not familiar, tickets for this typically sell out within a few hours and are super hard to come by. “Wait”, I texted back, “I will be home tomorrow! I’ll take the ticket!” I intermediately looked up the lineup for the festival, and saw that one of my favorite bands Trampled By Turtles would be playing. I couldn’t believe my luck, or the sheer craziness and significance of all the things happening to me that day.
Long story short, I completed the assignment, and made it back to RI to reunite with my boyfriend just as the sun was setting.
The next day, I quickly packed up a lunch for the festival, which included this salad, which I ate straight out of the container with a fork. I washed it down with a beer as I swayed and listened to one of my favorite bands. I felt so incredibly good. I was done with college. I was reunited with the man I loved. I was enjoying a band I had wanted to see forever. And I would be moving to the West Coast in just 3 weeks- a long-time dream. Everything in my life was coming together.
Every time I eat this, it brings little part of me back to that time.
And now, I’m embarking on another journey, except this time we are traveling to Cusco, Peru to learn Spanish and spend an unknown (!) amount of time traveling throughout South America.
I share this recipe with you because I think you will enjoy it- its easy to make, delicious, and something perfect to eat on a hot summer day. But I am also sharing it because it is a food that is significant to me, and a food that brings me joy. I hope that you are also finding joy in your life this summer, and that you have foods in your repertoire that can also elicit fond memories, joy, and happiness.
Happy summer, happy journeys, and happy eating. And thanks to my Mom for this recipe!
Summer Zucchini Salad (6 servings)
2 medium zucchini, shredded and drained*
1 medium red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
8 oz shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup of fresh chopped herbs (parsley, basil, and cilantro all work well here)
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
chopped dried or fresh herbs such as oregano, Italian seasoning, or thyme (optional)
** For zucchini, shred with a cheese grater and squeeze out over a colander to remove excess water. If not done, salad will be a bit more watery but still delicious.
Combine vegetables, chopped herbs, and shredded cheese in a large bowl. In a separate smaller bow, whisk together olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, herbs, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix with vegetables and combine.
Lasts in the fridge for up to 4 days and can be served room temperature or cold.