Tuesday, November 10, 2015


I may not make onions this Thanksgiving. I added them to the menu mainly because Laurie and Aunt Berthe liked them, and continued on the strength of a vague perception that onions are a traditional and important component of Thanksgiving.

I enjoy the sauce that accompanies Thanksgiving onions: B├ęchamel, or white sauce, flavored with salt, pepper, clove and bay; the recipe also recommends a suggestion of onion, which seems redundant. I can take or leave the onions themselves.

Justin makes the rest of the vegetables -- squash, turnip and potatoes -- with great energy and dispatch, resulting in a tremendous mess in the kitchen (which he and Amanda clean up before they leave).

He hasn't made onions. He might if I asked him, but without enthusiasm. He eats a couple of them when they're set in front of him, but as far as I know doesn't share my view of holiday tradition as embodied in Thanksgiving onions -- not enough to make the sauce, or peel a couple of dozen of those eye-stinging white ping-pong balls.

I usually eat about one onion, for the sauce. Mother accepts an onion or two. Justin's kids are still at an age where their tastes are malleable; they would probably partake, as would David. Sherry hates onions and has been heard to mutter about eyeballs in glue. But our two conspicuous lovers of onions are sadly no longer with us.

As usual, I will stuff and baste the turkey. Also as usual, I will intend to make a pumpkin pie if I have the time and energy, which I won't. None of my holiday functions get easier as I get older; Justin took me off gravy duty after the hissy fit I threw about it last year. With apologies to Laurie and Aunt Berthe, we may omit the onions. I'd rather have, and I'd rather make, pumpkin pie.

Thursday, November 5, 2015


"Squampkin" (pronounced SKWUMP-kin) was Katharine's word for two vegetables of the squash kind that Justin harvested in his sister-in-law's back yard a few years ago. No one had planted or tended them, and no one else wanted them. They were about the size of a basketball, slightly pear-shaped, equipped with light-to-medium blue-green skin, with longitudinal lines or indentations running from top to bottom. The color was more or less that of a Blue Hubbard squash, but the smooth skin and the lines are characteristic of pumpkins. The shape was somewhere between the two.

Winter and summer squashes are closely related; gardening books sometimes caution against planting them too close together, lest some wayward bee cross-pollinate them. I once bought at a farm stand a yellow summer squash with a smooth, dark-yellow skin that turned out to be so tough and unpalatable that I wondered if it was a product of miscegenation with a butternut.

Justin shares my amusement with Blue Hubbard squashes. They're huge: an oval seed nearly an inch long produces a big, ungainly seedling which develops rapidly into the long, prickly stems and leaves of winter squashes, sprawling untidily over the landscape to the east of their starting point. The Hubbards I grew one year were about a foot long; you see them twice that size at farm stands. Light blue-green with a nubbly skin like a gourd, round and full of seeds at the flower end but tapering to a blunt point at the stem end, a Hubbard makes a marvelously ugly jack-o-lantern.

Botanically, I think a pumpkin isn't quite a squash; but they must be closely related enough to produce accidental hybrids. The more we saw of the large blue vegetables Justin brought home, the more they looked like a cross between a Blue Hubbard and a pumpkin.

One night I noticed green-ish squash peel in the wastebasket and found Justin eating from a prodigious bowl of yellow mashed vegetable. He reported having cooked and mashed one of the squampkins, and offered me a bite. We agreed that the vegetable was, in itself, rather bland, but satisfactory if seasoned liberally with pumpkin pie spices. It might have been more amusing, however, if before Halloween it had occurred to someone to turn one of the squampkins into a jack-o-lantern.