PeerSpirit Newsletter – The Owl and the Tree
August 2019


Dear Friends of PeerSpirit,

Summer is winding down on Whidbey Island. The sun sets a little earlier, the nights are cooler, some of the leaves on the trees are already turning color. School starts again next week, after Labor Day. Time to savor these last days of summer with family and friends!


by Christina Baldwin and Ann Linnea

“If you feed us, we will come.”

Local berries…Yum!

August is potluck season. Well, it seems every month of the year we’re cooking food to take out the door, but in August the pace intensifies. Around here, it’s harvest time with abundant ingredients from local gardeners and farmers.  And there is a spirit of harvesting the events of the summer, a collective urge to gather each other in after months of individual schedules of travel and visitors. The community’s schedules start to re-engage: the school year, the theatre season, adult education classes, the next cycle of yoga or gym tickets, and so on. So, let’s get together…

Some version of zucchini always shows up at these potlucks!

Potluck bounty

Potlucks are spontaneous experiences of food and conversation that play an essential role in community communication. Some potlucks are small homogeneous groups of friends, phone calls that ask, “your deck or our patio?” and lead to sweet councils of catching up, telling our stories into a field of listening that helps us integrate summer adventures. Other potlucks gather support around organizations (the local farm CSA, Senior Center, soccer moms, church groups) where we share information about what is going on and meet other people who support a similar cause. Potlucks are a great way for neighbors to gather to get acquainted, build informal networks of support (from child-care to elder-watch), and to discuss larger issues that people face together, whether in the apartment building, the block, the condo association, or the neighborhood. Neighbors are often an eclectic group of people who share real estate boundaries and only over time discover if and what else they have in common. A great place for a potluck and a litmus test for practicing conversations with a diverse group of folks.

We are in a time of great need for civility practice: listening carefully, seeking connectivity, responding calmly – and challenging what needs to be challenged. Gathering around food is as natural as ripe apples falling off the tree. We know how to do this. With a little intentionality we can enhance the quality of conversations that happen when we gather. The lightest possible structure around a conversation can greatly enhance the experience of participation for everyone. The providers of social structure are anyone who has a little practice and is willing to bring his/her/their skills to the table along with a dish.

Gathering on the deck

Someone at the table will need to hold the intention of “inviting each voice” to be heard.
“Susan, I know you used to be active in the school when your children were young. How did you handle approaching the principal on this particular issue?” or “We all have our perspectives on the upcoming county commissioner election. I’d love to hear how each of us is thinking about the candidates – everyone’s voice is welcome and encouraged.”

Someone needs to ask questions that invite story or an open-ended exploration rather than opinion. For example, “What is a favorite first day of school story you have – either when you were young or now with your own children? What is the hardest thing about getting the kids in the back-to-school mindset? How do your outside chores change with the onset of fall? What is your favorite fall fruit and why?”

Someone may need to help shift the conversational topic if things turn argumentative or domineering. People often need help shifting the focus of a conversation that is going nowhere or, worse still, in the direction of alienating guests. “It’s been good to hear how some of us feel on that subject, but in the spirit of hearing everyone’s voice here, I’d like to shift to a topic that we all can probably relate to – like, what is the most memorable fall storm you remember?”

Someone needs to be ready to lighten things up and have fun! Invite people to talk about the dishes they have brought. Depending on the age of participants, have yard games available, or a fire pit to gather around, or invite some people to go on an after-dinner stroll. Change up the activities. Sitting and eating is wonderful but sometimes our digestion and thought patterns can get stuck! Rise up and do something together that builds a sense of team or walking together in the same direction.

And speaking of fun, here are two of our favorite potluck dishes which feature zucchini. Yup, we have more zucchinis than we know what to do with! Your place or ours?

Easy Baked Zucchini

  • 2 medium zucchinis sliced into thin rounds
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1/3 cup shredded parmesan cheese
  1.  Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Toss zucchini slices with olive oil, seasoning, salt & pepper and about 2 tablespoons of the parmesan cheese.
  3. Place on a baking sheet and top with remaining parmesan cheese. Bake 5 minutes.
  4. Turn oven to broil, place pan near the top and broil 3-5 minutes or until cheese is melted and zucchini is tender crisp.
Yogurt-Zucchini Bread with Walnuts or Pecans

  • 1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
  • 2 cups flour (can be gluten-free flour)
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • ½ cup yogurt
  • 1 cup coarsely ground zucchini
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Butter and flour a 9 x 4½ inch loaf pan. In a large bowl, whisk the flour with the baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a medium bowl, mix the sugar with the eggs, vegetable oil and yogurt. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients along with the grated zucchini (we run ours through a Cuisinart, then place in a strainer to drain out some of the internal water), walnuts (pecans) and stir until the batter is evenly moistened. Scrape into bread pan and bake 1 hour and 10 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool 30 min. before unmolding and serving.

Bonus information

Zucchinis may be abundant and cheap, but are they nutritious?

Zucchinis contain zero fat and are high in water and fiber. They also contain significant amounts of vitamins B6, riboflavin, folate, C, and K, and minerals, like potassium and manganese.

The summer squash also contains antioxidant and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients. This makes zucchini, also known as courgette, a nutrient-dense food, welcome in any diet!