Notes on Various Squashes

by Padraig Regan


I’m in the kitchen stripping courgettes for a salad. How could I not be thinking about sex, now that the basil plant on the windowsill has given up its last gasp of chlorophyll & Hounds of Love is on the record player & I bought the only two courgettes in the shop?


Courgettes are a type of squash: their flowers can be male or female, but both wear skirts of yellow taffeta. An arrangement of various small squashes can make an excellent alternative to flowers as a centrepiece for the table at an autumn dinner-party.


You could also try working pumpkin into your menu, or emphasising the inversion by serving courgette flowers stuffed with soft goat’s cheese & coated in tempura. Have you ever considered taking a cookery class as a way of making new friends?


The streaks of yellow-green on the bottle-green colour-field of the courgettes recall the ‘zip-line’ paintings of Barnett Newman. In contrast, the turban-squash is surely the product of Joan Mitchell. The butternut represents Rothko at his most luminous.


I steam the ribbons of courgette with salt & black pepper; what comes to mind is vermicelli, or the hagfish’s classification as vermiform. Yes, I realise there’s more to life than perfectly describing the perfect squash, but I can’t imagine what that might be.


The largest pumpkin in the world weighs 2,323 pounds. It was grown in Switzerland by Beni Meier & authenticated by the Great Pumpkin Commonwealth. It is one of those days when I can’t decide if I’d rather be Beni Meier or his pumpkin.


It is one of those days when you look at the clock & it tells you it is 6:45 & you realise you haven’t spoken aloud all day. The perfect solution is of course to sing along to Kate Bush as loud as you can, or to go to the shop for vegetables you don’t really need.


In the end I decide to do both – “Take your shoes off & thrrrrow them in the lll-ake!!!” & “Just these & a packet of Mayfairs please” – to check that both functions of the voice are still intact: I’d hate to be left singing my way through a seminar on Dylan Thomas.


As I’ve said, the courgettes were quite unnecessary, but when I chew them until they confess to my tastebuds their stories of olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic & lemon juice, I wonder how I could ever have survived without them.


A winter squash is just a summer squash allowed to grow to full maturity before it’s harvested & stored until the winter months. All summer squashes are varieties of Cucurbita pepo, but not all varieties of Curcubita pepo are summer squashes.


The courgette is a summer squash, which accounts for its frequent appearances at barbecues & its lingering association with your first trip to Italy. This might be the reason why a 2005 survey found it to be the tenth most popular culinary vegetable in the UK.


If it weren’t for the grunts of the gas boiler, these courgettes could have fooled me into thinking it was July; imagine, I could have been opening the blinds onto nothing but my own reflection sketched out on the darkly printed backcloth of the yard.


There’s enough left over for tomorrow’s lunch, but I know I’ll leave it in the fridge for days, weeks even, or however long it takes for the courgette to become hirsute with mould & for me to feel guilty when I close the door. I’m kind of cruel that way.