Every year I look forward to July. That’s a little surprising, because I’m not really a hot weather person. In terms of climate, I prefer cool October or March weather here in Kentucky over the heat and humidity of summer. The reason I anticipate July, though, is the summer produce.
Our backyard harvest starts with asparagus around the first of April, and goes until around Thanksgiving with the last of the Brussels sprouts. But July, oh my. That’s when all the summer stuff hits. Tomatoes, peppers, okra, beans, squash…
The thing is: what to do with it all? Zucchini, in particular, is incredibly prolific. The first week of July this year our four plants produced about 60 (sixty!) zucchini. They are still producing, but have slowed down a bit. We have fried, sautéed, grilled, roasted, stuffed and eaten it raw in salads. We have frozen shredded zucchini and put it in our tomato sauce. We have given away bags of it. And we have made zucchini bread. LOTS of zucchini bread.
Zucchini bread is an amazing culinary invention for using up the plentiful harvest. The zucchini provides moisture and specks of color, but no identifiable flavor. The flavor comes from the sugar, nuts and spices you add to the flour, zucchini and oil. In actuality, it is cake that sounds like a vegetable. Perfect.
During this July, I have been thinking about the “locavore” movement, the new name for something people in rural and semi-rural areas have done forever: eating whatever is in season in your vicinity. Eating locally supports area farmers, ensures more nutrients in our produce because it didn’t have to travel far from ground to table, and keeps us aware of the land, its rhythms and needs.
When Jesus told the disciples to ask God for daily bread, he was speaking in an agrarian society that readily understood this. It’s easy to get bread when there is plenty of grain right after a good harvest. Even the poor can afford it, and those who have enough don’t mind giving some away to the hungriest among them. (I’m giving zucchini to anyone who doesn’t have time to get the word “no” out before I put it in their hands and run.) But when the harvest is small because of too much or too little rain, from insect infestation or disease, or when the food starts to run out before the next harvest, then one’s daily bread becomes expensive. The poor may have to eat less; the poorest may go without. The high cost is not just monetary. Our tendency to cling to what we have, when others go without, is costly in faith terms as well.
When we ask God to give us each day our daily bread, the word “our” is more than just a filler. It must refer to more than just we few, however that’s defined: our group, our family, our kind. All God’s children are included in the prayer for daily bread. When we pray this prayer, we are asking that everyone be fed. We identify with those for whom abundance is just a dream. In partnership with God, we determine to see that no one goes without food.
So if you live in a place where food is abundant this time of year, you are blessed beyond measure. Now and always, we are called to share with the hungry.
And if you live in my town, you’d better keep your car doors locked or you may find a couple of zucchini waiting for you in the front seat the next time you go somewhere.
© Melissa Bane Sevier, 2010