Every season has its flavor. Winter is a rich beefy stew; spring is sweet strawberries in cream. Each season’s harvest brings nostalgia for the tastes of childhood.
For me, summer brings some of the best food memories of my childhood. Everywhere we lived my grandmother would plant a garden. No matter what else she planted there were three things she always cultivated: tomatoes, basil, and zucchini. Summer was bounded by how long these ingredients graced our table.
The zucchini plants were especially precious to us for they provided two crops. They not only supplied squash but also the blossoms. It was a special day when grandmother harvested enough blossoms for us to enjoy.
One summer I invited some of my friends to share this treat. I remember my grandmother placing the platter filled with fried zucchini and fried zucchini blossoms in the middle of the table.
“You eat flowers?” asked one.
“They are delicious” I said as I grab one and bit into it.
Another friend picked one up. She gingerly nibbled on the edge and made a face. She stood there holding it, not sure what to do. My mother came to her rescue. She held out her hand for the girl to return it and said, “you don’t have to eat any if you don’t want to.”
After they left my grandmother comforted me. She said, “some things we just shouldn’t share with Americans.”
After that zucchini blossoms remained something we kept within the family. I never invited any friend over to try it. After leaving home I never encountered them. It became just another childhood memory; something that was part of the past.
One day when I was hosted a group of friends and my brother showed up with a large bag of blossoms.
“Do you think we can recreate them?”
We talked through our collective memory of the batter. I knew it had cold club soda, he remembered it had an egg and we both presumed cayenne pepper had to be in the mix. We mixed together 1 cup of flour, 1 cup of club soda, 1 egg, some salt and cayenne. We gingerly dipped the blossoms into the batter and then fried them in a skillet. In a little more than a minute they were that delicate golden brown we remembered.
We arranged them on a platter which I placed in the middle of the table. I saw my friend’s children’s eyes light up.
“You eat flowers?” the older one asked.
“Yes, they are delicious.”
I watch both grab a flower and eagerly bite into it. They devoured those and had a few more. We all joined in and soon all the blossoms were gone. My brother and I were pleased. We had reclaimed a lost flavor of our childhood.
A few days later my friend called to thank me for the cookout.
“The kids have been bragging to all their friends about eating fried flowers.”