During my senior year of college, one of my friends finished her classes early so she just worked that spring until graduation. She lived in my apartment building and, with a little more time on her hands, spent an afternoon baking.
Would I like a flourless chocolate cake with raspberry coulis?
What about zucchini cake with cream cheese frosting?
Yes and yes!
Actually, my memory insists that she showed up at my door with a plate of three or four goodies, but I can't remember what the others were now. The zucchini cake with cream cheese frosting though? I kinda remember asking for an additional slice.
In the weeks leading up to, and after, graduation, my friends and I explored Chicago one last time together -- shopping trips along Michigan Avenue, free jazz night at Shedd Aquarium, a bucket of KFC and music at the Ravinia, Six Flags Great America, clubbing at Excalibur, and watching the sunrise before spray painting our names on a rock on the Lakefill on Lake Michigan. After graduation, we started jobs in all corners of the country and, except for weddings, have never been able to all be together all at once again.
I always tell people that college is the most fun you'll ever have without the responsibilities.
The summer after high school graduation and before college was one of the best times in my life. Feeling completion on one end and endless possibilities on the other. I had no idea what awaited me, but I was so excited for the future.
I was reminded of my 17-year-old self, of that summer of potential, last week when one of my former students, Bo Feng, passed away. I didn't know her well, I only taught her a few times three years ago, but I remembered she was sweet and cheerful. She was hit by a 73-year-old driver while crossing the street, a block from the restaurant where her dad works. One of her friends started a petition to install reflectors and a button on the crosswalk where she was hit. The last entry on her Tumblr page expressed her eagerness for this next phase of her life, "I'm excited for dorm shopping! Got my list ready, can't wait."
The news of her death ricocheted in the small world of the San Gabriel Valley. My boss, the college students helping out for the summer, other students who knew her, even the middle schoolers knew people who knew her.
I hope her dad was able to make her a bento box one last time. That she was on her way home and not on the way to visit him. She was an only child. My boss said she'd sometimes dine at the restaurant and her dad was always so proud when he spoke of his daughter.
What can I say about a life that was taken too soon? A world of potential that ended just like that?
Making yourself sad won't help, lil' sis said. Go play with one of the babies, that'll make you feel better.
And so I did.
And I baked.
Because, well, because there wasn't much else I could do. Because I remembered a sweet kid who was excited for the future. Because I remembered myself once upon a time.
Adapted from my recipe for Banana Bread.
For one large loaf, or half a large loaf and two mini loaves, you'll need:
1 cup zucchini, grated
1/2 cup butter, softened at room temperature
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup yogurt
Optional: 1 cup walnuts, chopped
Grate zucchini. Set aside in a colander so the water can drip out.
In a large bowl, beat 1/2 cup butter with 1/2 cup white sugar, 1/2 cup brown sugar, and 1 tsp vanilla.
Beat in eggs.
Mix 1 1/2 cups flour, 2 tsps baking powder, 1 tsp baking soda, and 1/2 tsp salt.
Give the zucchini one last squeeze. It will have quite a lot more moisture by this time.
Gently fold in yogurt and zucchini.
Don't overmix. You want the dough to still be light.
I made a double batch to share with my aunts and uncles, but this should be enough for one large loaf, or as I prefer, half-fill a large loaf and two mini loaves.
Bake 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Moist and not too sweet. Just like how I like my breads.
Eat a slice right away while it's warm.
Maybe slather on some cream cheese frosting if you'd like.
Share the zucchini bread with others.
And play with babies. Because babies make everything better. Especially when it's their first time at Chuck E. Cheese's.
Ostensibly, we were celebrating my brother's birthday.
Did you know I worked at Chuck E. Cheese's in high school? No, I was never in costume. (Everyone always asks that.) I did birthdays, delivered pizzas to the tables, manned the general store, refilled the salad bar, made pizzas in the kitchen, and lil' sis's favorite, made cotton candy. After hours of spinning sugar, I'd have cotton candy bits clinging to my hair. Lil' sis said I smelled so yummy when I came home.
We also made off-menu calzones just for the other employees. I liked to order my breadsticks put 3/4 of the way through the oven so they'd be nice and soft, instead of crispy.
Second cousins meeting for the first time.
While holding him, a woman with a baby stopped to chat. How old is he? He's so little. Only two weeks. They grow so fast though.
Birthday cakes for cousin Q, my brother, and his wife from Perfectly Sweet - Alhambra. From left to right: tiramisu cake with chocolate ganache, freshly made strawberry short cake, and German chocolate cake.
My parents asked how was the niece's first time at Chuck E. Cheese's? She was a party animal. Awake and still playing games long after her old fogey auntie went home.
Make the zucchini bread. Share it with those you love. And definitely, play with babies.
My other sweet bread recipes:
Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls with Cranberry/Pumpkin Butter/Walnut Filling and Maple Icing
Strawberry Banana Bread
Taro Dinner Rolls
1 year ago today,
2 years ago today, Osso Bucco (Italian Braised Beef Shanks).
3 years ago today, Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant - Pasadena (Old Town) (Closed).
4 years ago today, Biggest Menu, or how I find a lot of places to eat.