10 July 2009

Did you ever wonder?

Baby, if you've ever wondered,
Wondered whatever became of me,
I'm living on the air in Cincinnati,
Cincinnati, WKRP

WKRP in Cincinnati (1978–1982) was one of my favorite TV shows. I loved watching the antics of Andy Travis (Gary Sandy), Arthur Carlson (Gordon Jump), Les Nessman (Richard Sanders), Dr. Johnny Fever (Howard Hesseman), Herb Tarlek (Frank Bonner), Venus Flytrap (Tim Reid), Bailey Quarters (Jan Smithers), and Jennifer Marlowe (Loni Anderson). What red blooded American male could ever forget Loni Anderson? Hmmm, it just occurred to me that even though I remember the show as if it just ended yesterday, some of the people who read this blog may have been in diapers when it ended over a quarter of a century ago. Of course there were reruns and an attempt to bring the show back to life in 1991 but it was never the same. Just like all nice things that have a good run they burst onto the scene and capture our fancy for awhile and then they fade into memory. So, I am taking the liberty of changing the WKRP song a little bit to fit my own situation:

Baby, if you've ever wondered,
Wondered whatever became of me,
I'm living on calabacitas in Mexico,
'Cause thin is what I really want to be.

I have rediscovered zuchini in the form of calabacita. Actually, except for some minor varietal differences, they are one and the same. The Italian word "zucca" means pumpkin or squash and a "zuccchine" or "zucchini" is a little squash just like the Spanish word "calabaza" means pumpkin or squash and "calabacita" means little squash. Actually zucchini is native to Mexico. The species is "Cucurbita pepo" and includes various varieties such as spaghetti squash, yellow crookneck squash and yellow summer squash. These are all referred to as "summer squashes" and are a subset of squashes that are harvested when immature and the rind is still tender and edible. That is one of the marvelous things about calabacita. You don't have to cook it and if you do cook it there are many ways to do so. For people like me who are on a perpetual diet it literally is a Godsend. The calabacita is ninety-five percent water and yet it contains contains useful amounts of potassium, folate, vitamin "A", and manganese. Almost all of the nutrients, however, are contained in the skin so that's why you should always leave the skin on.

Calabacitas can be steamed, fried, roasted, deep fried in batter, chopped into salads, and even made into cookies and bread. I'll bet my Ma knew a hundred ways to cook zucchini. She would always plant too many zucchini plants and then try to figure out a way to use all the zucchini without throwing any away. She gave away away all that she could until people would see my Ma coming with an armful of zucchini and duck back into their houses and hide behind the curtains. At one point in my youth I was actually afraid that I might turn green from eating so much zucchini. I wish my Ma were still alive though. I would eat all the zucchini or calabacita that she could grow. I have even come to enjoy another part of the calabacita plant that I don't think my Ma ever used. The flowers are edible and they are wonderful in things like soup (Sopa de Flor de Calabaza) and quesadillas (Quesadillas de Flor de Calabaza). When I first encountered this I thought it was very wasteful to just use the flower and not wait for the calabacita to mature but then I learned what a dummy I was.

The plant has two types of flowers, male and female. The female flower is a golden blossom on the end of each emergent zucchini. The male flower grows directly on the stem of the zucchini plant on a long stalk where the leaf petiole meets stem and is slightly smaller than the female. There are about four male flowers to every female flower. How about those odds ladies? Right after the female flower is fertilized (with the help of bees) the base of the flower begins to swell and becomes the calabacita and the flower fades. The male flowers stay open longer and so you can easily tell which are the male flowers. These you can pick without hurting the calabacitas which have begun to form. You can use the male flowers (after removing the stamens) in your soups and quesadillas while you are waiting for the little baby squash to grow. My advice is to pick the calabacitas while they are still small because that is when they taste the best. You can eat all you want because one cup of calabacita contains only about thirty calories...and you won't turn green either. I never did and "Ya está la calabaza" (That's the end of that!).

5 comments:

Steve Cotton said...

Bob -- A fellow blogger urged me to try calabacitas when I posted that I was disappointed in the quality of some of the local vegetables. He was absolutely correct. They are delicious. Too many overly-large and bitter zucchini up north had turned me against the squash. But the calabacitas now appear in my salads, sandwiches, and stir fry on a regular basis. Thanks for the post on behalf of a wrongly neglected vegetable.

glorv1 said...

Did you know I have calabacitas coming out of my ears, and nose. We grow so much that I get tired of it and then on another day I try to find different ways to make it. Stir fry I love and for me the best is with corn, onions,chile, tomatoes and cheese. Your mom must have been a great cook. Have a great weekend.

Rosas Clan in Tulum said...

I also love them in my mexican eggs that I make in the morning. The kids absolutly love it. It is also a really great thing to add to your meat suace for pasta.

Constantino said...

ahhhh zuks! One of my favorite veggies and they grow fast espcially the long green ones. I forgot to look under the large leaves for a couple of days and to my horror here was one that was about 16 inches long. You feel bad for wasting them, but it makes great food for the chickens.
My favorite dish, is just chopped with 3 or 4 varieties, a little onion, salt and pepper with some water to steam for about 4 minutes
then add a little butter and toss.
Pretty low cal.
Many people think WKRP was fiction, I for one worked in a radio station in the 60's that had all those characters, to a tee!
Except the receptionist was the GM's personal toy.

YayaOrchid said...

Ah, yes! I remember WKRP! I used to love to watch the show. They just don't make good tv like they used to!

BTW, I just went back and read your comment about Chucho el Roto. I thought he was a fictional character! How interesting, now you've really piqued my curiosity. Must read up on him. Thanks for bringing up such great topics Bob!

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I was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A. I have been living in Mexico since January 6th, 1999. I am continually studying to improve my knowledge of the Spanish language and Mexican history and culture. I am also a student of Mandarin Chinese.