Here’s a note I received from previous contributor Diane Rivoli, who lives in Greece:
You might remember several years ago when the MAG, in conjunction with the D&C, ran a contest for people to submit true short stories about Rochester for possible inclusion in the meandering sidewalk on the MAG grounds they were going to dub the Story Walk. ‘Zucchini Soup’ was selected as one of the winners to have one word from it etched into a brick in the Story Walk that people would then text to the correct number to be able to hear the whole story read aloud. The Story Walk was built but the accompanying plaque that was to be installed informing people how to access the stories, to my knowledge, never materialized.
By Diane Rivoli
My husband’s grandmother had been quite the cook. Every Sunday as a young boy, he would go to her house on Hollister Street with his Papa, dreaming of what wonderful smells and flavors would be waiting for him; maybe spaghetti sauce with just the right tomatoey tang, or plump, homemade ravioli, maybe Sfingi spongy Italian doughnuts, dipped in honey or her sturdy Italian cakes with white lemony icing. His mouth would water with anticipation.
All those wonderful recipes were stored in her head, she had never written them down, and when Grandma passed, the recipes died with her.
Over the years, we tried to recreate those recipes with little luck. Getting the right combination of flour, eggs, sugar and baking powder for the baked goods proved a feat never to be accomplished and recipes gotten online touting themselves as “the traditional Italian favorite” never met the mark. The savory items were a little easier to duplicate but never quite achieved the perfect title of “Like Grandma’s.”
There was one recipe though that did occasionally hit the jackpot and that was zucchini soup. Every year I make a big pot towards the end of summer. Some years I win, some years I lose.
The most important thing you have to start with is a huge zucchini; one that hid under the leaves and didn’t get spotted until it was almost the size of a watermelon with a pithy center and seeds as big and hard as those you would dig out of a pumpkin at Halloween. The next most important thing was to make teeny, tiny meatballs to put in the soup. “Grandma could form and fry those little meatballs so fast!” my husband would tell me. Then you would add water, tomatoes, potatoes, celery, onions, garlic, basil and spices.
One year I forgot the potatoes! One year I added pasta. “No, No! Grandma never put pasta in her soup!” One year I just fried up the hamburger and broke it up into small pieces instead of fussing with all those little meatballs. How much difference could it make? Big difference — not like Grandma’s!
I got the big kettle out again this year. I had the humongous zucchini. I had two jars of canned tomatoes from my father’s garden. I made the teeny, tiny meatballs and I made sure I added potatoes. Will this be the year? Will it measure up?
I watched my husband’s face closely as he bought the steaming spoon to his lips and tasted the soup. There was a full-face light up! His eyes gleamed and sparkled! His smile was wide! “Oh, this is good! Just like my Grandma’s!”
Photos courtesy of Diane Rivoli. Learn more about Diane’s writing and The Story Walk.