I was reading about winter squash in the Fedco Seed catalogue. These writers add serious romance to their descriptions. After describing the Sweet Dumpling variety’s “inherent buttery richness and sweet-tangy taste,” the catalogue makes this recommendation: “To experience its sweet dry and memorably rich deep orange flesh, make sure your Dumpling is ripe.”
A dry, academic description of these varieties would cause me to light up as I imagined wild rambling vines with big sweet squash swelling into strange and wonderful shapes under a canopy of leaves. I would picture them emerging, steaming from my oven and then sitting on my dinner table like a symbol of everything in the world that makes me feel grateful.
This year, I want to try the Sibley variety of banana squash. It is apparently slate blue and grows to be a foot long. You aren't supposed to eat it right away though. You have to keep waiting for it throughout the winter as it dries and sweetens while sitting on a shelf. Finally, in January, it will come into its own, the catalog says. In the bleakest months of winter I imagine it will be like sunshine that I can embrace by eating it.
The Winnebago Indians apparently developed this variety, and then the Sibley family faithfully grew it for many generations, finally making its seeds more widely available. I felt thankful to these people and was picturing all these diverse generations enjoying this strange wonderful squash in the middle of winter.
As I read and daydreamed, one of my Zumba albums played Latin dance music in the background, and my favorite salsa song began. It starts with a syncopated riff, and then intricate tropical drums layer themselves over it. Horns join in, measured and powerful, and finally the vocalists top it off with another rhythm sung in percussive Spanish.
I had already been hovering near my capacity for delight, and this song I had already been hovering near my capacity for delight, and this song pushed me over the edge. My face and ears grew hot, as they always do when I blush, but instead of heating up and then settling down, they kept feeling warmer. They heated up until they were so uncomfortable that I had to set the catalog down, leave the room, and splash my hands and face in cool water.
I returned to the Fedco catalog and the salsa music with a new sense of clarity: For reasons that only partially understand, we should have a large patch of squash this summer and that strange blue banana squash should be part of it.