Be careful what you ask for. I asked for squash. More accurately, I was offered squash. I accepted. I pondered what the heck to do with it. You see, this was no ordinary, run-of-the-mill squash that you can easily hold in one hand or slice in its entirely for a salad. This was a monster of a gourd known as a tromboncino, so named supposedly because of its resemblance to a trombone or trumpet. To me, overwhelming the majority of my kitchen counter, it looked more like an overgrown tadpole without eyes. One side was bulbous which stretched out several feet into a rounded tail. This was no zucchini or yellow squash, mind you. This tromboncino was to a standard squash what the massive pumpkins in Half Moon Bay are to the average grocery store options.
The novelty of the tromboncino is probably why I was eager to accept the offer of the newsroom’s master gardener. He’d brought in a photo of the homegrown produce being held up by his toddler daughter to give the size some perspective.
You want one? he asked. Of course, I replied. Having a black thumb, my begging bowl is always ready for excess goodies like heirloom tomatoes and bunches of mint. Why hit the farmers’ market when the farmers’ market can come to you?
And soon he made it so but there’s a big difference between the initial offer, the actual delivery — which at least allowed me to cause double-takes by walking out of the office with the squash curled around my neck like a bloated snake — and the reality of it at home awaiting preparation.
I admit feeling daunted. It didn’t seem right to slice into the thing willy-nilly without a plan for proper preparation. An acorn or spaghetti squash was one thing. A little butter. Maybe some bacon. One serving. Two servings. Done.
But this thing taunting me next to the dish rack was different. I didn’t want any to go to waste but wasn’t sure exactly how to best accomplish the task. Its grower had estimated a good 40 portions could be had from the squash. A dinner party was obviously the only way to go but frankly I don’t even like 40 people and the ones I do like I don’t want to jeopardize by bombarding them with a six-course meal of nothing but squash. I felt like I do after a trip to Costco sends me home with mega-size boxes of baby quiche and delusions of grandeur only to realize later that I was completely out of my mind.
Eventually I pulled out a knife and went to work. The squash wasn’t going to cook itself and collecting dust awaiting its fate wasn’t turning it any smaller. If I couldn’t handle one of these squash, which I’m told was not even one of the garden’s bigger specimens, how in the heck did anybody process an entire crop? The fun must be in creating an Alice in Wonderland meets Willie Wonka-ish edible aesthetic. Either that, or feeding the better half of a city block for the summer.
I sliced. I diced. The flesh of the squash tasted milder than a zucchini and weeped less. I shredded and baked and fried. Necessity is the mother of invention and the squash provided ample maternal prodding.
In the end, I admit reaching my breaking point on the tromboncino. Actually all squash. For now, all I want is a big bowl of green peas or maybe some sugar snap peas. By next summer’s growing season, though, I will likely have forgotten my inaugural challenges and accept another tromboncino. Or, maybe I’ll just be that much better equipped to handle it. If not, gourd help me.
Michelle Durand’s column “Off the Beat” runs every Tuesday and Thursday. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org or (650) 344-5200 ext. 102. Follow Michelle on Twitter @michellemdurand What do you think of this column? Send a letter to the editor: email@example.com.