Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Invasion of the Zucchini People

Zucchini has an interesting role in Utah food culture. For normal people, it is a small green summer squash that can be steamed, boiled, grilled, stuffed, baked, grilled, fried, and incorporated into other recipes, such as souffl├ęs and pasta dishes. I've even heard that the flower can be stuffed and eaten. It's considered a delicacy when turned into tempura. Zucchini can also be eaten raw, in a cold salad, although I'm not a fan. In various Thai and Vietnamese hot salad recipes it's featured hot, but barely cooked. I like to fry it up in olive oil with some other veggies and toss it with pasta. My mom makes great zucchini bread.

It turns out that, biologically, Zucchini isn't a vegetable at all. It's the immature fruit of the Zucchini flower. It's usually harvested when it's about 8 inches long. Any larger and it starts to get fibrous.

With Utah Mormons it's a way to alleviate guilt. What we do is grow zucchini to enormous sizes (12 to 20 inches) and then give it away to our neighbors. Like most fruitcake, it's not a gift you want to receive. I think we do it out of a sense of community guilt, coupled with the fact that we don't want to eat it ourselves. "We grew way too much zucchini so, let's give it to the neighbors. That way we can get the blessings of sharing the fruits of our labors with others. Yeah! That's ticket." I'm often suspicious that God looks at this behavior as inflicting pain, not giving good gifts.

The gifting of zucchini is so prevalent that, if you ever visit a Mormon church in Utah during the summer, make sure you lock your car securely. If you don't, when you come out of church it will be filled with zucchini. We call that "fellowshipping."

Utah residents need to be careful when leaving their homes, too. In many cases, when you return (usually from church), your front porch will be covered in zucchini. The person giving it to you likely feels that it was a good gift, given anonymously as any Christian would. The truth is they don't want to be charged with committing a drive-by zucchini-ing, or have you retaliate by giving them an ancient fruitcake dated back to pioneer times.

I believe I've discovered a more sinister truth behind all of this nonsense. Zucchini isn't a vegetable or fruit at all. It's really an alien pod species bent on taking over. Think about it! First, it grows like crazy out here and convinces us to let it grow to enormous sizes. That's when it takes over our brain and makes us spread it around to our neighbors.

“Here, Johnny, take this home. No, it won't hurt you. It's not pod. Trust me. You'll like it.”

The thing the zucchini people didn't count on is that they would land in with a bunch of Utah Mormons. This is where their evil plot fails. We don't give them time to really infect us. We eat them too fast.

*UPDATE*

I was talking with my mom the other day, about zucchini recipes, and she told me, "There's another thing you can do with zucchini. Cut it in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds, and float it down the river. We used to do that with cucumbers when I was kid. I'm sure you can do it with zucchini."

That is so like my mother.


1 comment:

mike H said...

I was ready to plant my first gardens in Utah as a married type.
Along with my tomatoes, carrots and lettuce, I had two or three hills ready for zucchini seeds.
Plant only two seeds in each one, people warned me.
Nah. What do they know? Nobody tells me how many to plant.
I planted four in each one just to show them.
It's years later now and I'm still seeking therapy from this. I had so many zucchini that Logan had to declare a state of emergency.