The True Story of How I Spent an Entire Summer Sneaking Zucchini onto My Neighbor’s Porch
This is the story of how I was roped into a life of crime and secrecy, egged on by my mother. It is an entirely true story. It is also a story about zucchini.
I grew up in a quiet neighborhood in Syracuse, New York; the kind of street where kids play until dusk and home bakers really do pop by for a cup of sugar. My father had a robust garden, bursting with radishes, carrots, Swiss chard, tomatoes, and, most of all, zucchini.
What I remember most about that garden, and that summer, is the zucchini. There was so much zucchini. And it wasn’t just average zucchini. We had zucchini boats, as big as a man’s thigh. It had grown watery and bland, bursting with bitter seeds. Of course, it wasn’t always like that. The season had started with small squash, sweet and tender. We welcomed that zucchini warmly, slicing it into coins for the sauté pan, grilling the halves, and snacking on the littlest ones raw straight from the soil.
But as July marched on, we grew weary of zucchini and let it grow to monstrous proportions. The longer it sat, the larger it got—and the larger it got, the less we wanted to eat it. This was before the age of spiralizing, you see; before folks bought zucchini almost as fast as they chucked their whole-grain spaghetti noodles into the trash. We had no idea what to do with this abundance of zucchini—until my mother hatched a plan.
Our across-the-street neighbors were nice, upstanding citizens, a kind family with three children around my age. They had never wronged us; never so much as considered letting a dog relieve himself in our yard, or excluding us from the annual block party. I’ll never know why they were my mother’s chosen victims. (I suppose I could call her up and ask her, but hell, I’m on deadline and it’s all ancient history, really.) She laid out the plan simply and matter-of-factly (my mother is very matter-of-fact) to my family: We would leave a couple of our largest zucchini boats on their front porch, in the cover of night or midday, when the kids were at camp and their parents at work. They’d be bewildered, we’d get a chuckle, and best yet, we’d be down a couple of zucchini boats. It was all very innocent and light-hearted.
Until it wasn’t.
The thrill of the crime and the relief of lightening our zucchini load got the better of us. It wasn’t long before we found ourselves seeking out creative places to stash the squash, getting bolder and more brazen. By the time mid August rolled around, we were leaving it on the porch almost daily. With almost everyone on our street growing summer produce, our neighbors couldn’t, for the life of them, figure out who it was.
After a good run of it, we had weekend plans at the lake. My mother worried. If the zucchini stopped arriving, surely they’d connect the change with our absence. Resourcefully (my mother is very resourceful), she hired out. Another neighbor was contracted to leave zucchini in our stead, and off we went on vacation.
Upon our return, our accomplice confessed that she had gotten creative. Her last delivery was not just a large zucchini, but a zucchini dressed in a baby’s Christening gown and bonnet, swaddled gently and left with a note of gratitude for taking “her” in. I howled. My mother planned.
We continued leaving zucchini, dressing them in old clothes and accessories. Every time my mother made a “drop,” I was at her side, wringing my hands with anticipation, growing woozy with delight at the thought of them coming home to find Aerobics Instructor Zucchini perched on their bottom stair.
I’ll never know if things ended because we were sloppy or they were clever, but finally our neighbors decided they had had enough. Unbeknownst to us, they nestled a camcorder in the mailbox and let the tape run. We made our delivery per usual that day, and went home to eat a garden-fresh dinner of corn, tomatoes, and NOT zucchini. The next day, a package appeared on our porch. We opened it to discover a video tape (this was the 90s, after all).
It was cued up to three-quarters of the way through the reel. We popped it in to watch, with horror, footage of the two of us crossing the street, passing right by the mailbox with a prize zuke under my mother’s arm. I had been skipping.
Of course, the jig was up. We had been discovered. And what’s more, we still had a garden full of zucchini.
I can’t say that if, given the chance, I would have done anything differently. I just wish MyRecipes had been a part of my life back then. With dozens of zucchini recipes at my fingertips, perhaps things wouldn’t have ended so dramatically. Perhaps, just perhaps, they would have ended with a simple, perfect zucchini bread.