This might sound paranoid, but one can never be too safe. I have this feeling that some kind of shadowy, proxy war has broken out in our house lately. It’s small, seemingly innocuous things that, when I add them up, suggest something more ominous might be afoot. It’s coming home every Saturday morning from the farmer’s market, unpacking the loot, and finding two or three large zucchinis staring up at me from the bottom of the bag, zucchinis I was not aware were purchased. (The old Trojan horse strategy.) It’s telling me, again, how popular the “green fries” post continues to be with DALS readers (so weird!), and asking me, all innocent-like, if we should throw a little zucchini on the pizza tonight before it goes bad. (Classic psy-ops technique.) It’s standing in the kitchen, and hearing you say, “Mmmm, this looks delicious, we have to make this sometime, look,” only to realize that the recipe you’re pointing to is for something called “zucchini crudo,” which, upon closer inspection, is really just raw squash, sliced thin, with a little lemon juice drizzled on top. And it’s somehow always managing to say this in front of your little agent provocateurs, who then respond, (as if) on cue, “Daddy hates zucchini!”
No, Daddy does not hate zucchini. Daddy does not have the energy to hate zucchini. Zucchini is not worthy of hate. (Garlic mashed potatoes, on the other hand…) Here’s an attempt to clarify my position, once and for all: I would never willingly choose to eat zucchini. I find zucchini bland. Bland can be okay, but I also find it kind of flaccid and soggy, and it’s that soggy, slightly gelatinous quality, that weird spongy texture, when combined with the blandness, that keeps it from rising even to the level of inoffensiveness. Zucchini, to me, is the Three and a Half Men of vegetables: Can I endure it, if absolutely necessary? Yes, I can. Do I enjoy putting it in my mouth? No, I don’t. Will I swallow it whole in order to get it down because of said mushiness issues? Yes, I will. I mean, have you ever heard anyone take a bite of zucchini, drop the fork, and say, “Holy sh@t, that zucchini is INSANE?” Because I have not. But, honestly, I feel like you know this already. We’ve been married thirteen years, and my position vis a vis zucchini has remained steadfast. (About as steadfast as your position on bell peppers and olives, for the record.) Which makes me wonder: why the renewed guerilla campaign? Why all the subterfuge? When you say you love zucchini, and resent that you hardly ever get to eat it anymore because I don’t really like it: what, exactly, do you love about it? Help me out here. I want to know. Or is this, getting back to the proxy war thing, not about zucchini?
It would be naive of me to think that when we got married, that there would be no trade-offs. I get this. I expected this. It would have been unrealistic of me to think that we’d agree on everything or that I could somehow convince you to agree with me on everything. So when it comes to your hatred of zucchini, I try to stave off my resentment by reminding myself how miraculous it is that a New York girl found a Virginia boy who grew up loving the Yankees. I’ll take a Yankee fan over a squash lover any day of the week. Even a Yankee fan who keeps forgetting to drag the recycling bin to the curbs on Wednesdays.
But you are not imagining things — I have been bringing home a lot more squash lately. You’re also right that it’s not really about the zucchini. Nor is it about waging some sort of proxy war. (Really? Don’t you know by now that when I have something to say I am extremely mature about saying it in an open and direct manner.) My return to zucchini has nothing to do with being resentful over your inability to remember the recycling! Nothing at all.
It has everything to do with where it takes me when I eat it. You know your favorite scene in Ratatouille? The one where the critic Anton Ego takes a bite of the titular dish and it whooshes him back to his childhood dinner table in the French countryside? That’s the best way I can explain to you why I can’t just let zucchini drift out of our rotation. And why I requested a big mound of it shredded and sauteed alongside a bowl of skinny buttered egg noodles for my birthday dinner last year. (Thank you for swallowing that dinner whole.) And why when I am home for lunch all by myself, I often fry up a chopped zucchini in olive oil, red pepper flakes, garlic and a light dusting of flour, top with a fried egg, salt and pepper, then eat the whole thing standing up in the middle of the kitchen. Just like I used to in my childhood kitchen in the Southern Westchester countryside.
It’s not about the flavor or the texture, which I’ll give you is not exactly optimum. It’s about coming home on a summer night with my pony tail still wet and dripping on to my tennis whites, swinging open the back screen door, and seeing my Mom, apron over her work clothes, sizzling some zucchini spears with olive oil and garlic. And if that doesn’t make sense, perhaps I need to direct you to your own mother’s breaded pork chop recipe ca 1981? The ones you are so sentimental about that you wrote 600 poetic words on them for Bon Appetit? Get it now?
Oh, and one more thing. That zucchini “crudo” is more than just thinly shaved zucchini with lemon juice. There’s a hefty drizzling of olive oil, some salt, pepper, shaved Parmesan, and a handful of chopped mint. But since I never once ate this now incredibly popular dish as a 12-year-old, I will have to agree with you and say…it is kind of awful. The other night when I polished off the whole platter by myself I did so because I was too proud to admit that you were right. I swallowed every bite whole.