Book Review: The Zucchini Cookbook

The Zucchini Cookbook, by Paula Simmons

If, on a lark, one decides to read a series of cookbooks relating to zucchini as I did, there are some things one ought to know.  For one, a great many writers about the subject feel it necessary to show a sense of humor when it comes to their writings about the humble zucchini.  This book, for example, begins with an entirely facetious history of the plant and its growing that seems written mainly to use the letter z as often as possible.  For another, as is common, zucchini is mostly famous for being a massively prolific plant, which frequently leads to the embarrassing situation where one has zucchini plants heavy enough to use as boat anchors but not a good idea of what to do with it in a way that is edible.  The result is that in stark contrast to many other cookbooks, there is more of a demand for something to do with zucchini than there is a desire to increase the supply of zucchini that exists.  The massive supply combined with the desire not to waste that supply tends to produce a high degree of creativity in seeking ways to use the zucchini, and that is something that I have found my reading on the subject.

This book is a relatively short one at about 150 pages long.  It begins as many books do with the process of growing zucchini after a humorous and facetious introduction.  After telling the reader to grow and cook a plant that they have grown too much of, the book begins with the use of zucchini in breads, dips, and spreads, which amount to the lowest hanging fruit as far as zucchini dishes are concerned.  My own first experiences with the plant were in the zucchini breads cooked by my late maternal grandmother, who did a very good job in making them appetizing in this fashion.  After that, the book discusses the use of zucchini in cakes, cookies, and desserts, nearly all of which are leavened, which was not the most immediately useful sort of way to eat such a veggie.  After this there are two chapters that contain casseroles, because for some reason the cookbook writers of the decade thought that people really wanted their casseroles, starting with vegetarian options and then including casseroles with meat, poultry, or fish.  After this there are recipes for pickles and relishes that I was not particularly interested in as well as some soups, salads, and salad dressings (including a zucchini vinaigrette that looked at least somewhat intriguing), before the book ends with a discussion of veggie dishes, side dishes, and stuffing before closing with an index.

It should be noted, though, that this book is not the best work to see that creativity in evidence.  This work was published in the 1970’s, and it does not take very much effort to understand that the 70’s was not the golden age of recipes for the fecund and prolific zucchini.  Some people may feel nostalgic for the food of this period, but while I was not alive during the period, I am familiar with its unpleasant and undesirable leftovers and this cuisine is not something that I can say that I enjoy to a great degree.  There are some worthwhile dishes here, but a lot of the dishes show the same patterns to add mayo where it is not really needed or wanted and to use margarine instead of butter, since there appears to have been even less than the usual attention being paid to either health or taste during this time period in food as well as other habits.  But if this book is not so useful as a book worth imitating in terms of its recipes, it is at least a worthwhile book as a sign of some very dark times where it was still thought necessary to figure out what to do with zucchini to keep it from going to waste.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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