I can never remember which one it is…
Green, warty and humble, this small Japanese relative of the buttercup squash has a cult following among winter squash enthusiasts. Known for its dark orange flesh, the smooth texture and chesnutty flavor, the kabocha(I just looked it up) is also revered as an aphrodisiac in some cultures. However I think any amorous feelings that arise from eating the pumpkin are usually directed towards other human beings and not the pumpkin itself, as in my case. If you have a large enough knife and big enough strength to cleave this rock-hard squash bauble in half, the fragrance that issues forth from its secret chamber will make you believe, if you don’t already, in those fairies at the bottom of the garden (the same ones Richard Dawkins so vehemently despises.) The scent is easily recognizable to anyone who has dug their bare hands into the soil beneath the leaf mould in late-winter – earthy, pungent, cool and full of the promise of spring. I have often baked the kabocha whole to avoid the problem of cutting it, and it has the unique distinction of filling the kitchen with the scent of (I kid you not) – A SWEATING HORSE.
(Note: For any girl who has lived through a pre-teen horse obsession, the smell of sweating horseis the smell of FREEDOM. The foul-tempered sweating horse I used to ride – a bony, geriatric half-breed called SHAM with a passion for running me under low branches that resulted in at least two hairline fractures- lived behind my house on a hill off of Montford Avenue in Mill Valley. As kids, we used to hunt for Prohibition-era, blue-glass liquor bottles in the Eucalyptus trees by the old farmhouse whose very friendly and very hippie tenants let us run wild about their property. Only years later did I learn Jack Kerouac had written Dharma Bums within the Indian-blockprint-fabric-hung walls of that very same farmhouse. Though I digress, my point is that the sense of smell (if you have one) has an unmatched power to lead you by the ankle bangles, dancing in a dreamy, free-association revelry through the aromatic labyrinths of memory. For example, when John Waters’ Polyestor came out in “Odorama,” I saved my Scratch N Sniff cards for years. Even though the cards contained horrid smell-dots like “burning flesh,” “dog shit” and “new car smell,” they also reminded me of the purple vinyl couches and musty velvet curtains in the Castro Theater, the Won Ton Soup at the next door Hong Kong Cafe, the noxious clouds of unmuffled exhaust from my father’s Camaro etc., etc.)
Should you happen to find a few of these edible endoplanets at your local farmer’s market, do not buy just one – buy the lot. I’m looking for one big enough to move into, just like the lamp in I Dream of Genie. Like Thoreau once wrote, “I would rather sit on a pumpkin, and have it all to myself, than be crowded on a velvet cushion.”