Sunday, July 19, 2009

Summer Squash


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'Tis the season, in the Northern Hemisphere at least, for squash. I grew up calling yellow or crook-necked squash "summer squash," and I prefer it to zucchini, the hide of which is a tad bitter, and the meat of which can be watery. I used to like to pick yellow squash because in the garden, it often had some fuzz on it. One reason to plant a garden, I submit, is that it produces imperfection, such as the fuzz, which is rubbed off by the time squash makes it to a super-market super-slickly. For instance, the cucumbers I just harvested look pretty gnarly. They're fat and fine inside, but the hide looks like it's been in a scuffle, and one of the cucumbers has an odd twist to it. You just can't find that kind of imperfection in a produce-department, no matter how hard you look.

In case anyone asks, and I'm sure someone will do so, "squash" as a verb can mean not just to press down or in upon but also to join in a crowd of people--to squash about in the city, as it were--this according to the OED online. "Squash" as a noun may refer not just to zucchini, etc., but also to the unripe pod of a pea, and in this iteration, the word was often used insultingly. One would call someone a "squash," a mere unripe pod. "Hey, pal, as far as I'm concerned, you're an unripe pod." And here's news: "squash" as a noun used to refer as well to a muskrat--or "musksquash." Wow.

My desultory research did not go so far as to tell me how the racket-game, squash, got its name. Squash seems like the upper-class version of racquet-ball, but I could be incorrect in that impression.

When something feels as if it has been squashed, we sometimes say it appears squishy, don't we? What was squashed was squished, or squishified. ;-) I seem to remember that "squish" was also deployed as a verb, back in grammar (or lower) school: "Squish that spider, Irving, will you? Thanks."

I wish you a good summer of unsquished squash, eaten raw, steamed, or roasted, and may the squash you harvest be perfectly imperfect.
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