Monday, August 2, 2010

Squashless in Skokie

Thanks to the yuppie scum neighbors who moved in next door into their wretched-looking gut rehabbed place and immediately put up a 7-foot “privacy fence,” I no longer get any sun in my backyard. Their Taj Mahalian garage that takes up the width of the yard and casts a massive shadow over my former tomato patch doesn’t help either. This means that I’ve had to branch out, and now my main plot is in a community garden in the ‘burbs.

So I head out there the other day, eager to see what surprises await. The tomatoes are growing like hotcakes, ripening in July which for my tomatoes is unheard of. That’s the main crop, but then there are the beans (eaten by wabbits), the peppers (muddling along, though I don’t pay too much attention to them), the cukes (wee, since I started them late), and of course, the squash. Oh, glorious squash! How many odes have been written to your beauty, your versatility, your tastiness!

Come to think of it, probably not very many, since squash is kind of the Rodney Dangerfield of the garden. The classic joke being that people have to lock their car doors in summer not because crime goes up, but just so that they don’t come back and find a pile of zucchini on the front seat. And then you’re stuck trying to figure out what to do with the damn things. Some squash beckons to you at the farmers’ market, looking so adorable and healthy, so you buy them and take them home and they sit on the counter, mocking you, until you decide that they’d make a lovely decorative tableau along with other incomprehensible vegetables like rutabagas, so you arrange them and let their very presence do the heavy lifting, saying to all and sundry “Look at me! I’m a squash! Only people really dedicated to their health and svelteness eat squash!”

Until the day they all start rotting so you throw them out, happy to be done with it all until the next time you get suckered in. Umm, not that I’ve ever done anything like this.

Or you look up recipes on, your regular go-to place for such things, and half of them involve cut up squash, milk, and saltines, in what must be some weird Southern ode to inedible casseroles. The other recipes follow the approach I do – to the squash add ground beef, Italian sausage, marinara sauce, lots of garlic, lots of cheese, bake the whole thing, and voila, you have something that’s actually pretty tasty – no thanks to the squash.

The point being, I wound up with a squash plant because I was at the garden one day when my garden plot neighbor was thinning out her plants, and asked me if I wanted a stray squash. I thought, why not? There’s plenty of room, I’ll just stick it in here where it’ll be out of the way.

Of course, a month later it’s the Squash Plant That’s Taking Over the World, growing with alarming speed, churning out pattypan squash with determination. I went there one week – no squash. Exactly a week later? 3 squash, one the size of a hubcap. No lie. I picked two, and left a small one because I wasn’t sure how big I was supposed to let them get.

Fast forward to yesterday at the garden. I hop over my fencing and go eagerly to the squash plant, to see what kind of behemoth we’re dealing with here, and…….what ho? No squash? Someone has STOLEN my squash??? I’m so dumbfounded by this that I look under every (immense) leaf, even though the squash are bright yellow so they’re impossible to miss. I then head over to the tomatoes, but I still keep looking over at the squash plant, as if the missing vegetable will somehow magically appear. Alas, this doesn’t happen, and I remain squash-less.

Now, not that I begrudge the squash thief, because quite frankly, I still have about 3 containers of squash casserole in the freezer from the last one, but……seriously? Squash??

And people think I make this stuff up.

On another note entirely, today I went for my usual 80-mile Donut Commute, passing through the Evil Nasty town of Capron, IL on my way to the Bucolic, Lovely Town of Sharon, WI. And as soon as I reached the sign that said “Capron,” a menacing shadow appeared immediately overhead – so I look up and see the biggest, darkest turkey vulture I’ve ever seen hovering and circling right above me. And staying there. Hmm. Coincidence?

I think not.

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