Thursday, December 30, 2010

Winter Squash is Very Dangerous

To prepare a winter squash, you will need an enormous sharp knife, an immovable surface (cutting board not recommended) and great fortitude.

Photo by Cindy Funk

This cannot be over-stressed: You must know in your heart that preparing this winter squash is the right thing to do-an act of commendable righteousness so perfect that no amount of applied effort is really wasted. Remember that winter squash is a nutritional powerhouse. According to the World's Healthiest Foods website, "We are just beginning to discover the wealth of nourishment supplied by the mildly sweet flavored and finely textured winter squash, a vegetable that was once such an important part of the diet of the Native Americans that they buried it along with the dead to provide them nourishment on their final journey. " So there you have it. A vegetable so perfect it can feed dead Indians.

Prepare for battle.  I must warn you that there is a substantial risk here of severing one's own fingers,  accidentally heaving a heavy object as hard as a baseball across your kitchen and shattering your window, as well as a somewhat smaller risk of blunt-force trauma to hapless passersby. But do not let this stand in your way. Unless you want to give up now on being the sort of person who would regularly eat winter squash-a seasonal eater, someone attuned to the needs and rhythms of the earth, a spiritual person-you must not falter now. This is the anti-fast food food, a food beauteous in its very uncooperativeness. You, too, can do prepare and enjoy a winter squash.

First, you must take this oddly shaped vegetable and coax it to rest in a stationary manner on your kitchen counter. As I said, I recommend you eschew the notion of a cutting board here, since it is prone to flying out from the underbelly of your cylindrical subject with great force, injuring passing cats. You will need to begin by reverently making a tentative first entry into your virgin winter edible with the sharp tip of your enormous knife. (Do not read any more into this than what I have said.) From here on in, you will be thrusting and retracting your knife skillfully from the squash, which will be reluctant to release the knife. A certain amount of amicable insistence on your part would do well here. Do not allow the squash to retain your knife but instead wiggle the handle cautiously and repetitively until each time it is once again freed from the innards of the squash. On each such occasion, you must then re-insert it in such a way as to encourage a slightly larger furrow. This procedure takes approximately 40 minutes, give or take. Such things take time and the world was a better place when it always took four hours to make dinner.

Assuming you have proffered the necessary fortitude to proceed to this point, you will, at some point, experience a great triumph of will over the vegetable, wherein it ultimately splits more or less in half with all the catharsis of that final push with which a mother brings her child out of the womb.

This vegetable is now your bitch.

If you have not already done, please preheat your oven to 350 degrees, scoop out all the seeds and pulp (a really good person would now compost these) and turn your sundered winter squash on its subjugated self flesh side down. It is useful to put a little water in your baking pan-perhaps 1/4 inch or so. Bake this sucker until it relents, approximately 30-45 minutes, depending on initial size. About 10 minutes from the time you believe your squash will be fully cooked, brush with butter and sprinkle with brown sugar and cinnamon. When done, its fleshy insides can be scooped from the peel and served like mashed potatoes or served in wedges from which your guests can scoop their own portions of flesh. Enjoy with other honorable vegetables, such as kale, turnips and heirloom Incan tubers.

Know that you have done the right thing.


  1. I wanted to take a picture of my squash, but in addition to its other troublesome characteristics, winter squash is also not photogenic. Additionally, I forgot to mention, that scooping the squash out of its brittle, cooked carapace is a process which involves unintentionally scalding oneself on the hot skin, while continually rotating the squash to get a better angle at it. Ultimately, with the use of several forks and something like a large spear, I was able to collect most of the cooked pulp. So never lose hope.

  2. I have this exact recipe! This is absolutely hilarious and I have promptly added winter squash to my shopping list because I need to be a more righteous seasonal eater.

    1. It is really important to do the right thing, isn't it? :)


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