That Time Arnold Palmer Saved the World from Alien Zucchini

Feb 5, 2016 | Cooking, Featured Posts by Holly Jahangiri, Gratitude

…and Didn’t Even Realize It!

I was 19. My parents left the country for ten days – and left me in charge of the house, the kitchen, and two zucchini plants. My mother’s instructions went something like this: “Don’t burn down the house, don’t fall in love while we’re gone, and check on the zucchini every couple of days. It looks like a few are almost ripe, and it’d be a shame to let them go to waste and rot out there in the garden. It shouldn’t be much trouble; there are just the two of them.”

I didn’t burn down the house.

And I did check on those zucchini plants. I dutifully plucked the dark, green summer squash and tucked them into in the fridge until there was no room for anything else. And still they continued to be fruitful and multiply. I began to envision them as the first wave of alien zucchini pods, little infiltrators poised to take over planet Earth from my kitchen. I supposed it was my patriotic duty to eat them, but I wasn’t terribly fond of zucchini. I wasn’t even sure how to cook them. My mother had always shooed me out of the kitchen, saying, “Go on, it’s just easier to do it myself.” I opened the refrigerator door and gave those zucchini the evil eye. They were unmoved and unintimidated.

I began to tear through the cookbooks.

And there, in a cookbook my mother put together in 1976, called Mrs. Cratchit’s Kitchen, was a recipe for zucchini bread, contributed by none other than the famous golf pro, Arnold Palmer. Armed with a grater, a large bowl, and a wooden spoon, I read Palmer’s blueprint for defeating the alien zucchini army:


By the time I was done, I had vanquished the foe and stocked up on enough loaves of zucchini bread to feed my girlfriends and all their boyfriends for a week. I could hardly lift my right arm; it ached and throbbed and hung limply at my side – worn out from stirring so many batches of the thick, heavy batter.

I refused to make zucchini bread again until after I had a Cuisinart food processor.

I had to draw my own Purple Heart. In crayon.

Next up, another grand, culinary adventure: Calamari Marinara with Couscous. Or, Chewy Rubber Bands with Lumps of Damp Concrete.

I eventually learned my way around the kitchen, and still make Arnold Palmer’s zucchini bread – I only wish he knew how grateful I was not to be squashed by the insidious squash.


I’ll be honest: I’m no sports fan. In fact, I think the “any interest whatsoever in sports” gene skipped me and doubled in my daughter. But Arnold Palmer is special. For my daughter’s first birthday, I wrote to nearly 160 celebrities in various fields: actors, politicians, royalty, sports figures, pioneers in medicine, musicians, artists, writers, and others. I asked them to help me make her first birthday memorable, since it was a big milestone in her life, but the odds were good she wouldn’t remember a minute of it. And just as Arnold Palmer had come through with a recipe to save the world from evil zucchini, he came through for me:


Thank you, Arnold Palmer.

Holly Jahangiri is the author of Trockle, illustrated by Jordan Vinyard; A Puppy, Not a Guppy, illustrated by Ryan Shaw; and the newest release: A New Leaf for Lyle, illustrated by Carrie Salazar. She draws inspiration from her family, from her own childhood adventures (some of which only happened in her overactive imagination), and from readers both young and young-at-heart. She lives in Houston, Texas, with her husband, J.J., whose love and encouragement make writing books twice the fun.


    • HollyJahangiri

      It’s a really good recipe. You can use grated carrots (might add a bit of water, just to make it the same consistency) and make carrot bread.

    • HollyJahangiri

      You know what I learned from my mom and her Cookbook endeavors? the bigger they are, the nicer they are. you’d be amazed at who contributed recipes, and at who sent Katie birthday greetings .

  1. Pete Laberge

    Rule 1 of the Zucchini: Do not burn down the house!
    Check your email….

  2. Alana

    I am one of the 5% of people in this nation who don’t get good zucchini harvests. I love zucchini bread, too, and Arnold has such an easy recipe (I’d leave the raisins out, though). I love zucchini and I keep wishing I lived somewhere where gardeners sneak around in the night, leaving their excess zucchinis on the doorsteps of strangers. I wonder if Arnold gardens?
    Alana recently posted…World Cancer Day 2016My Profile

    • HollyJahangiri

      Hah!! I’ve always left the raisins out. I should try it with raisins, one of these days. Honestly, the first time I tried it I worked with what I had on hand – raisins be damned. I just wanted to get rid of the zucchini that were partying in my fridge, threatening to take over my house. It did the job quite nicely, and I am forever grateful.

      I have better luck with “accidental zucchini.” Or stuff my parents planted and left me in charge of. When I was a kid, we managed to grow a zucchini that was about as big as a human baby. I thought it was funny, at the time, but in hindsight it was kind of disturbing. I’m pretty sure there’s a reason why those things are commercially harvested when they’re still small and manageable.

      You know, I hope this post makes its way to Arnold, so he knows I haven’t forgotten his heroic kindness – and so he can let us know if he gardens – perhaps his recipe was born of necessity, too!
      HollyJahangiri recently posted…Why Is the Night Sky Not So Dark?My Profile

    • HollyJahangiri

      “You can’t make the plant stop producing unless you beat it to death with a hoe.” You’d think, right?

      Well, here’s how you do it – you plant a whole row of the stuff between two black walnut trees. Now, there are two theories – they were unisex or the black walnuts poisoned them. I don’t know, but they grew, flourished, flowered – and never produced fruit. (This was the same place where I couldn’t get MINT to grow. After we moved, apparently the mint I’d planted sprang forth from the earth and was nearly impossible to get rid of – but for two years, I had not a hint of mint. So if anyone can kill a thing or make it grow stunted, mutated, unnaturally shaped fruits, I can.)

      One thing I learned from my mother’s efforts with the cookbook and my own, years later, with the birthday album – the bigger they are, the NICER they are. I really need to repost this one here:
      HollyJahangiri recently posted…Why Is the Night Sky Not So Dark?My Profile

  3. Marian Allen

    I had always heard that “Arnie” was a prince, and now I see that rumor has it right. I’m with you in hoping he sees this post and learns how much his kindness meant to you, Katie, and the people who treasure you.
    Marian Allen recently posted…Sugar and DiMarco #SampleSundayMy Profile


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge

Copyright © 1998-2020 Holly Jahangiri
Nothing on this website may be used without prior written consent of the author and owner.

Let’s Connect!

Do you like "unlimited" like I do? Subscribe to Medium for just $5/month, and read everything there is to read, for no extra charge. Use this link: and it will directly support my writing there each month.

Looking for Excellent Web Hosting?

PeoplesHost Web Hosting


I have been a happy customer here, myself. While this is an affiliate link, I'm just happy to promote PeoplesHost, because I have had nothing but great customer experience with them as my own web hosting provider.

Post Categories