Tuesday, October 5, 2010
by kale daikon
South down the 101 it rolled, past the Petaluma chickens, stopping only for a quick peek in at the L'eggs Hanes Bali Playtex outlet shop, then back onto the highway, careering like a ghostly runaway tire past the semis and big rigs until it got hungry in Corte Madera, stopped for an organic snack, then plunged bravely into the foggy wind gusts on the Golden Gate Bridge.
I had not expected an evening caller and put my eye curiously to the key hole at the sound of polite knocking. I saw this peeping back at me:
He introduced himself as a white winter squash and resembled a larger, thicker-skinned version of a summer patty pan squash (perhaps this Italian variety or this one). I let the fellow in and he took a seat on a red wicker stool at the kitchen table. He smoked a fennel pipe and told me about the garden in Santa Rosa where he had come from. He was raised among the prized heirloom tomatoes nestled next to a modest plot of grapevines belonging to some Vietnamese friends of my parents. He'd never quite felt at home among the more popular produce, sitting in the corner like a sad pale moon while the merry tomatoes jumped on the trampoline. Looking for a place to fit in, he decided to venture south to San Francisco, where a sprig of calendula at Hayes Valey Farm whispered to him about my penchant for weird vegetables.
I had already begun roasting some parsnips, tomatoes, and half a kabocha squash to use in a pasta sauce, and he suggested he jump in the oven as well to warm up a bit.
"Whole?" I said.
"Whole," he said.
So I put him on a baking sheet next to the kabocha and diced parsnips. After 40 minutes at 400 degrees, his edges browned and sank a bit but the rest looked the same.
But something was wrong. I could sense it. I sliced him open to check his insides.
Suddenly I noticed a sinister ring of brown goo on the bottom of the squash. Rot. He'd been on the edge of decay but had tried to pass himself off as edible. Still, the insides looked benign enough, if not quite appetizing. I spooned out the seeds and scooped out a bite of white flesh. It hadn't exactly gone bad, but it was not good. No, the swollen, bland bite left my mouth immediately and plopped wetly into the compost bin like an overripe plum. There was no hope. No one would eat this, not even me. It was a little depressing, but with less soggy pathos than this attempt.
The only thing to do was to put the poor fellow back together again and send him off to Pixar in a jaunty disguise. I had some connections there, I said, maybe we could sneak him onto a storyboard for the Ratatouille sequel.
Thinking quickly, I pulled together some scraps from the cutting board and made him a face. "Kids like you better when you have a face," I explained, "as do adults, for that matter. Having a face makes almost any object cuter and thus more endearing and worthy of love. Take Marcel the Shell, for example."
But my white squash was still unhappy, as his newly constructed face showed.
I stood back and surveyed his features carefully.
"It's the soul patch, isn't it?" I asked. He nodded. I had known it was wrong: too Ethan Hawke nineties coffeehouse pseudo-intellectual, but neither of us had to say it outright. We both knew.
I plucked off the droopy fennel frond, et voila!
Seymour the Squash was ready for his new public. If Pixar didn't bite, perhaps Dreamworks would be interested. He rolled back out into the October night, a sheen of inspiration glinting off his new face in the moonlight, the decay spreading throughout his bottomside momentarily forgotten.