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What makes you ‘mushy’?

January 27, 2009

Recently, a student, writing for the school newspaper’s Valentines Day issue, asked me what makes me ‘mushy’? I replied, “nothing.” Mostly, because I didn’t need students to know what makes me ‘mushy.’ I mean, can’t some things be kept secret from the students?

In all honesty, I find something oddly wonderful about…. The Neely’s. For those of you who have cable, and watch Food Network, you may have stumbled upon Down Home with the Neely’s. Patrick and Gina Neely are a young couple who own a famous BBQ place in Memphis, and have a show. The TV show displays their roots in Southern cooking, which relies on a healthy amount of meat recipes. However, their vegetable and carb-rich sides, could substitute as a normal vegetarian dish. Sometimes the recipes could use a modification or two in order to create a low-fat dinner, but really I watch the show because I enjoy watching them interact. Normally, I can not stand cheesy hosting, but for some reason I adore their loving banter. In the future,through discussing my issues with Rachel Ray, I will reveal my low tolerance for saccharine interactions. As a husband and wife team, they work in the kitchen teasing and flirting with each other, while demonstrating a talent for explaining the basics of cooking. Watching their friendly interactions, I smile and sink under my quilt, content with the world. What I find particularly pleasing is that despite an initial appearance of a gendered and heteronormative show, they actually do not gender their place in the kitchen. Patrick and Gina complete the entire meal together, both experts in cooking and entertaining. True, sometimes Patrick focuses on the meat and Gina on the baking, but that has more to do with their professional backgrounds; and in many episodes, both take a hand at each other’s expertise. Personally, I hope this is a way to outline a changing trend occurring in American kitchens. For many people of my generation, our mothers did most of the cooking. Wonderful jobs they did, but the woman in the kitchen approach just is not practical when both people work. However, now, there is a plethora of answers to the question of “Who does the cooking in your house?”

And last night, in the spirit of the Neely’s, I came home from my first class of the semester to a glass of wine and a home cooked meal made by A. Friends, when asked by my student ‘What makes me ‘mushy?’ that is precisely what popped in my head.

Alex’s Meal: Neely’s Zucchini Gratin

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 6 zucchini, sliced into half moons 1/4-inch thick
  • 2 plum tomatoes, chopped and seeded
  • 1 tablespoon freshly chopped thyme leaves
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half
  • 1/4 cup grated sharp white Cheddar
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan


Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Butter an 8 by 8-inch casserole dish.
In a large heavy bottomed saute pan over medium heat, melt butter. Saute onion and garlic until translucent. Add zucchini and tomatoes, about 7 minutes Add thyme, and flour. Season with salt and pepper. Add mixture to the buttered casserole dish.
In a medium size bowl, add brown sugar, eggs, and half-and-half. Season with salt and pepper. Pour the milk mixture over the zucchini and sprinkle with both of the cheeses. Bake for 30 minutes.

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