Note: The following post is written from the viewpoint of my 6-year old daughter, Boo, who was with me when I chanced upon some butternut squash at a local supermarket.Â Point of view notwithstanding, I thought it would be noteworthy to illustrate to you how my family witnesses my truly food-obsessed moments.
Mom and I are walking through the first floor of SM Makati near the produce section, when suddenly, she says, “Boo, run!” Alarmed and gripping Mom’s hand, I run, as fast as my little legs can carry me. She gets there ahead of me and I catch up with her near the pumpkins, where Mom is ”“ oh gosh, is she actually cooing? ”“ at some tan thing she has in her hand. I suppose it’s a vegetable and I suppose it’s part of the pumpkin family since it’s bunched up with the other pumpkins, but I’m not sure. It looks like an avocado gone very wrong. Mom, who’s been talking to the attendant, turns to me, as if she suddenly remembers I’m with her. “Boo, look,” Mom utters reverentially, her eyes large and shining with glee, “this is a butternut squash.”
Butter what? I don’t care. I’m getting hungry and Papa’s waiting for us at Ace hardware.
“… see its distinctive tan color, its cylindrical neck, and sloping curves?” Mom is saying. Frankly, I get lost after the word “tan.” I prefer the color yellow, like the cooked and buttered corn that’s being sold over there in little cups. Mom is very rational but she goes crazy-wild over food and ingredients. I guess I’m used to it. She’s been taking me to supermarkets and talking to me about food since I was born, which is why she tells me that I started talking before I was a year old.
I hear the attendant say that the butternut squash is P100 per kilo, so Mom flits between this and that squash, holding each one and touching their stems. “I think I’ll get three,” Mom muses as she cradles each squash in her arms. I think she’d get them all if we weren’t already carrying so much. “Thanks for waiting hon,” Mom tells me with a big smile, reaching out to stroke my hair. Thank goodness for headbands.
When we meet up with Papa and sit down at the restaurant (food! finally!), mom shows him the squash, her eyes shining as radiantly as they did with me. Papa and I don’t like squash – we fish them out in the pinakbet that Mom cooks, but since Papa loves Mom so much, he smiles benevolently at her, his eyes full of wonder at his crazy wife.
When we get home, I walk past Mom’s library, her office, and I’m surprised to see one butternut squash sitting on top of Mom’s desk! It’s sitting on top of one of the many cookbooks that usually litter Mom’s workplace. I’m even more surprised to see Mom on the floor clutching her camera, contorting her body in the most unnatural of positions. Click, click, click. I leave her and get to my computer. I can’t wait to watch Ashley Tisdale’s new video on YouTube.
When I get home from school the next day, Mom’s in the kitchen surrounded with those butternut squashes (again!), her camera, and that cute tripod she uses that has flexible legs. I think I heard her call it a “gorilla” once but it looks more like an octopus to me. When Mom sees me, we do our customary “running hug.” We’re very affectionate with each other but not in front of my friends. Because I’m craving for instant noodles, I give Mom my doe-eyed look and ask if I can have it today for merienda. She’s a sucker for my “cutesy looks” (most of the time) and today (yay!) it works. I don’t understand why Mom only lets me have instant noodles twice a week. I love it as much as Mom loves dessert, which she has everyday.
With my bowl of instant noodles in front of me, the salty aroma tickling my nose, I sit and slurp, watching Mom work. I notice that she’s using her cloth napkins that have a million squash, all different kinds, decorated on it. It’s her favorite. She also has a glass chopping board with a huge squash on it. Did I tell you that Mom’s crazy for squash?
“Never did I think (click!) that I’d see the day when butternut (click!) squash would be locally available, Boo, (click!)” Mom murmurs, her voice interspersed by the noisy shutter of her camera. Unlike my Tita Tricia who takes pictures of her kids, Mom only takes pictures of food. Sometimes if I’m not too hungry, I let her take pictures of my food at the restaurant. Mom can take pictures really fast because she hates cold food.
Mom finally splits open the butternut squash. Its flesh is a beautiful, vibrant orange, as orange as the AstroBoy cheese rings that I love to eat. The squash has one small hollow from which Mom scoops out the seeds. She’s going to roast the squash after she “anoints” them with olive oil. She even adds some leaves to them, although why Mom is so fond of leaves in food is anybody’s guess. And they have fussy names too like “sage” and “rosemary”.
Right before Mom puts the squash in the oven, I bend my head over one squash half and inhale deeply. It smells like … orange, almost like sweet potatoes, another thing Mom loves. It smells nice.
The squash is done in about 25 minutes. I know because 25 is the number Mom punches out on her kitchen timer. I watch as Mom uses the tip of a knife to pierce the skin of the squash. The knife goes right through. “It’s ready!” Mom exclaims. She’s excited, I can tell. I’m not sure why she slathers one squash half with honey ”“ “… the one with truffle slices in it, Boo,” ”“ she’s saying. Truffled honey, hmm. I wonder if Winnie the Pooh would like that? Then Mom dabs a bit of cold butter into the hollow of the butternut squash. I watch, fascinated by how the butter dissolves almost on impact. It shines in the light.
As I get some bread to spread some of that butter on, Mom is sitting down at the table eating her roasted squash. She’s eating slowly, a funny look on her face, somewhere between rapture and thoughtfulness. It’s the same look I got when I tried Jack ‘n Jill Nova in Garlic Parmesan flavor. I prefer the Cheddar but Garlic was good too.
As for Mom, I know she’s loving her butternut squash. She might even use it to make her squash risotto (above), a squash pie or the orange pandesal she bakes sometimes. She might even make her yummy squash soup, the only way Papa and I will eat squash.
Available at 1/F SM Makati.
Grown and packed by Sweet Bee Farms, Bukidnon for Global Fresh Products, Inc.
My Pumpkin, My Squash