I’ve always felt that Labor Day is something of a misnomer, since hard on its heels follows work. Here we are, having spent the summer footloose and fancy-free, and we have this holiday inserted into the calendar commemorating us for hard work. It’s a bit cart-before-the-horse, if you ask me.
Since its hurried passage through Congress in 1894, driven by President Grover Cleveland’s concern about worker unrest which was fueled by the burgeoning power of labor unions, Labor Day was originally celebrated in the United States with orations by notable speakers, street parades and festivals for workers. Politics played a part in it; after all, elections are just around the corner. The September date was chosen in order to avoid conflict with International Worker’s Day, which was widely observed on May 1 to commemorate the massacre at Haymarket Square in Chicago on May 4, 1886. The intention of the holiday was pacification. Strikes and riots, always simmering, threatened to boil over in the heat of summer.
We’ve come a long way from those 16-hour work days. Child labor laws, workmen’s comp, fair wage laws and leave for new parents, male or female, are part of our national conscience. There is still enormous room for improvement; I read this week that women’s wages comprise 70% of men’s in comparable work positions and there are relatively few women in management positions. Ethnic and racial discrepancies abound, with education being the elusive resource for gaining a foothold in white collar business. The New York Times questions whether the cost of education is worth it, considering what we get and what it delivers, and yet, at this particular moment, all I wish for is a break. I’ll save that issue for another day.
While summer’s relaxed pace allows us to reign in, somewhat, most of us have continued to work throughout the summer, and the upcoming weekend is a much-needed respite, a chance to catch our breath before we jump in to real life once again, going at it full tilt. School has started; it comes earlier every year, it seems.
The biggest question I have at the moment is what should I do with the gargantuan zucchini that is possessing shelf space in my refrigerator? When my friends Sarah and John brought it over last night, I was speechless. Measuring 17 inches, with a girth of 12″ round, I know it’s not that large, when compared to all zucchini-dom. Maybe it’s only a knight of zucchinis, or possibly an earl. It’s pretty darned big, though, and I hate to waste food.
We all have a lot going on for the next few days, what with travels, barbecues, socializing and just plain hanging out, so I thought, in case you need something to cook, particularly with zucchini, I could help you out. I threw in some eggplant to make it interesting. Here are a couple of great end-of-summer recipes we’ve been enjoying. Happy end of summer!
Even though Disney may have made the French vegetable dish, “Ratatouille”, a household word, I still encounter people who wrinkle their nose at my suggestion that I cook up a batch and serve it to them. Invariably the response will be, “um, hmmm, not sure I’ll like it but, maybe.” And the conversation trails off. This in spite of the fact that Ratatouille is not made from rats, nor is it haute cuisine. This earthy blending of vegetables results in a delicately-flavored stew which provides a cook with endless possibilities for side dishes, not to mention that you can stuff an omelette with the leftovers for a simple healthy breakfast.
The days are long gone where all an eggplant could become was Eggplant Parmesan, loaded with fat and fried breadcrumbs. I’m not knocking the dish, but I want you to know that there are options, many of them. To help you become familiar with this sultry vegetable, try combining it with grilled chicken and sautéed mushrooms. Toss with your favorite pasta and you’ve got a satisfying end-of-summer one dish meal. It’s light on kitchen time and utilizes the grill to keep you outside. If you’d prefer a vegetarian option, skip the chicken and grill tofu. Or, you can sprinkle the sautéed vegetables with feta or goat cheese.
Roasted Chicken with Zucchini and Mushrooms
I’m continuing on my “end of summer” tangent, and want to make sure you know about this gem, which I’ve adapted from Fine Cooking. There is something magical about balsamic vinegar, chicken and an oven. The vinegar tenderizes the chicken, while allowing it to develop a beautiful glaze. Serve it up with roasted new red potatoes for a wonderful summer feast. Or enjoy it year-round. You’ll never tire of these simple flavors.
Tuscan White Bean Salad
This last offering doesn’t involve zucchini, but there is nothing quite as nice as being able to throw together a homemade bean salad to bring along on any summer outing. The great thing about this bean salad is that it belongs to no season and no protein. Think of it as a nice segue into fall. http://www.feedingthefamished.com/?p=1166