Out of the misty memories of childhood, only the occasional incident plays back in crystal-clear detail for me. While I have warm, if vague, childhood memories of my great-aunt and great-uncle, Peg and Percy—who came to visit a couple of times from England—there is one incident involving Aunt Peg that I recall quite vividly: It was in the backyard, sitting at the picnic table, when I remarked that she spoke differently from me—that she had a funny accent. She quickly retorted, “No, you’re the one with the accent.” At first, the expression on her face remained dead serious; then, she slowly cracked a smile and gave a wink from behind her large, owlish glasses. Her comment stopped me in my tracks, because, as a child, it never occurred to me that I might be the one with an accent.
More than a dozen years later, as a young adult, I stayed for a couple of nights with Aunt Peg in her apartment just outside of London. While quite elderly by that time, she still had the same delicious sense of humour, the same wink, and the same mischievous twinkle in her eye. Still beat me at Scrabble, and I knew to be wary of the wink and the grin, which often signalled the word she had spelled out on the board was not, as she claimed, a real word—but one of her own invention.
Of course, she still had the same accent too (or I did, depending on one’s perspective). More than an accent, though, it was a different vocabulary. While working in England that summer I figured out that a fag is a cigarette, a lorry a truck, and a lift an elevator. But her mention of a courgette threw me for a loop: perhaps it was another invented word. A smooth-sounding word, for me it elicited images of some sort of dance—and sounding similar to corvette, also conjured up images of a military vessel. As it turns out, courgette was—is—simply “English” for zucchini. I don’t remember how we prepared it, but I expect we fried it in margarine.
The zucchini is in the summer-squash branch of the squash family. Posh-looking summer squashes are once again the darlings of the culinary scene. They come in many shapes, sizes, and colours. And just like their cousin the “courgette,” some may sound like invented words or a foreign tongue. But don’t panic!
In our book, No Guff Vegetable Gardening, Donna Balzer and I
demystify squash… without introducing the dreaded Latin binomial names that botanists love. Here’s what we tell readers:
Squash-name neurotica stems from a tangle of things: there are three main species, but each species has a number of varieties; all these varieties are more commonly classed by use, shape, and time of harvest than by their species; classification categories overlap; and, to top it off, there are regional differences in names. Wow.
It’s enough to befuddle the aspiring squash grower, who must remember that a zucchini is a summer squash, but not all summer squash are zucchini!
Read about posh squash on the website for No Guff Vegetable Gardening.
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