Sunday, July 20, 2008

Okay, here's what I meant about the zucchinis.

Let me get this right out into the open.

I’m pro-zucchini.

I have nothing against zucchini. In fact, zucchini is part of my regular diet. Especially if we define “regular” as “irregular.” I have even been known to go to the grocery store and pay good cash monies in exchange for zucchini. Voluntarily! Heck, I’ve served it to guests, and not only to my secret enemies.

That’s right. I like zucchini.

After all, zucchini is not without its merits. True, its appeal grows the more one removes it from its natural culinary habitat, so to speak. For example, I’ve had fabulous zucchini chocolate cake and excellent zucchini bread. In all fairness to the really good vegetables, however, I don’t think it counts as a reflection on the merits of zucchini when you take the zucchini taste and texture out of the zucchini. Still I’m willing to concede that it can be quite good when served in a more traditional zucchini-centric manner.

Nothing exists in a vacuum, and when compared to other vegetables, it comes up okay. For example, zucchini c is better than cauliflower, about which I have nothing good to say. Nothing. Cauliflower is a phony food item that was probably first served as a prank.

And it’s a prank because of this. I hate to talk about this, but it needs saying. When one first rides a bicycle, one has to think through every moment. Then in the fullness of time, riding a bike becomes second-hand. A similar learning process occurs when we first started eating solid foods. Somehow or another we learn through the feel of the food in our mouths when we should swallow. (I know this is disgusting.) I don’t know exactly what that signal is and frankly I don’t want to think about it because it probably involves saliva and food consistency and the size of the food particles--but the point is that ordinarily we recognize that trigger without giving it any thought.

Cauliflower screws up that whole dynamic. You can chew and chew and chew it and yet never receive that subtle message that it’s okay to swallow. It makes every eating cauliflower like relearning how to ride the bicycle. To use a different analogy, it’s the culinary equivalent of the trick candle. Just when you thought it’s done…..uh, no.

Zucchini also fares better than radishes, which are almost always best when left uneaten. And un-harvested. And un-planted. However, I don’t view radish-eaters as the soulless walking dead that characterizes your cauliflower eater. Liking radishes is not a trait one should brag about, but I can get along with the radish eaters on a don’t ask/don’t tell basis.

Eggplant can certainly be wonderful when served just right. In which case it’s a delight to eat. A delight not only because it’s pleasant but also because it’s so rarely prepared well (or photographed well either, apparently) that eating a good eggplant dish is a nice surprise—a little like finding out the commencement speaker ended his speech within the fifteen minute timeframe.

And Okra. (Big sigh…) Let’s just put it this way, if you’re on the wrong side of the okra fence, well, I wish you well in this life. I bet every day is a long day for the okra lover, poor souls.

But back to the zucchini. In moderation, zucchini enriches one’s life. And it's always lovely to receive any heartfelt gift from a good soul. But ever since I was a child, I have had well-intended neighbors and friends stride eagerly up to me or my parents, smile as though they just won the lottery, and then thrust a big bag into our hands that’s spilling over with zucchinis. And all I’m trying to say to this person and all those like him through this blog is this: “Thank you. Yours is such a generous gift. But I’m just not worthy of so much goodness. Love is best enjoyed when shared with others, so I’m going to share a few of these fabulous tasty treats with my friends. And with my neighbors. And passers-by. And the old man who mumbles on the street corner all day. He, too, needs love.”

I hope that clarifies everything.

I’m just saying he needs love, too.


Trueoutlier said...

Bummer, now we can put a name or two to that chasm between us – okra and cauliflower. I’ve always had special feelings for cauliflower because as a kid I thought they were mutant, albino broccoli and for some reason this misguided idea endears them to me. And okra – I’m not a southerner but I’m married to one on TV – eating fried okra and steamed oysters on a Georgia barrier island in late September – it changed my whole outlook on hot, humid, sticky, slimy…

Now, lima beans – they deserve the raging and ranting for which blogs were invented.

Michael B said...

I too am endeared by mutants. Thus my self-absorption.

My experience with okra is three-fold. Fried okra in the cafeteria at the University of Texas in my undergraduate years. I ate it out of a bizarre sense of obligation to fit in my newly adopted culture. I've also had it a terrible diner here in my present town. The okra did not betray the diner's reputation. And lastly I've had it in low country boil, and there it's okay because it adds to the low country-ness of the experience while contributing minimal damage to the dish.

So I suggest that as far as the okra goes, our chasm is neither as deep nor wide as we might assume.

But as for cauliflower, that is something we best not speak of. In fact, I'm going to assume that your comments were only a joke. I don't see the humor in it (at all), but what other choice do I have?

Lima beans. I've made my peace with them. We're like most of my neighbors--we get along best when we interact on a limited basis.

Michael B said...

trueoutlier--so i hit your link and found "Harmatia and Hybris."

So I googled "Harmatia" and even that omniscient machine had some trouble. But I gathered it means a fatal flaw. I'm down with that. That's pretty cool. And Hybris. That's the female version of hubris? Is that's what's going on here? And is it that hybris is your hermatia?

I dig that.

Technoprairie said...

Stephen says ahem to the califlower rant. He once chose as a topic for his writing essay "Why I hate Califlower". I remember one part of it. He said that he didn't like the smell, the taste, or the leftovers.

I'm so-so on califlower but I'm afraid the rest of your nephews and niece just love it. Love it so much that they are willing to walk around the kitchen eating the last couple of florets.

My opinion on okra is that it is just fine in New Orleans cooking where you are more worried about your tongue catching on fire than the texture of the dish.

Jamie H. in SC said...

I need to know your stance on squash.