Once upon a time, I thought I had married your classic New England prep. Umami boy counts among his ancestors several Mayflower passengers, a governor of Maine, and a president of a potted ivy college. He was raised in Massachusetts, went to the same school from K through 12 and wore a braided belt until I asked him to stop sometime in the late 90s. Essentially, we met when I ordered him from the J. Crew catalog; and as far as I know, we have both been fairly pleased with the way things have played out ever since.
Recently, though – and without any notable changes on his part – it’s become apparent that umami boy is, and has always been, something of an alpha hipster. I noticed this around the same time that the Times noticed people in their twenties moving from Williamsburg several hours to the northwest, having left on their Carhartts but denuded them of irony. Umami boy grew up in the suburbs like the rest of us, but, thanks to the inventiveness and dedication of his parents, had ingested maybe three vegetables not grown organically on his own lawn before he started college. He doesn’t need directions to shell fava beans and doesn’t consider kohlrabi unusual. When our preschooler shrieks at a particular type of icky bug, he patiently explains its role in helping her beloved tomatoes grow. Back in the day we friends thought it was quaint, at best, that his first business had been raising chickens to sell the eggs when he was seven. Now I’m contemplating buying a copy of The Hipster Handbook just to avoid showing the guy how lame – sorry, fin (apparently) – I really am. He is made of the back-to-the-earth authenticity that hipsters crave; and I have been reduced to little more than a groupie.
There is but one lasting downside to this new/old state of affairs, and it goes something like this: Baseball, thy name is zucchini. Sometime in the early 80s, there was an incident with an overplanting of zucchini, which is apparently extremely easy to do. Unfortunately, this first misstep was followed by an incident with an ill-advised throwing of the excess zucchini plants onto the compost heap. By the following spring, the neighborhood team was playing little league with three-foot-long zucchinis as bats. I am only the slightest bit kidding. (In her divine book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Barbara Kingsolver writes about the zucchini problem in a way that actually reduced both umami boy and his mom to tears of laughter. Please, please read it if you haven’t.)
Some years later, before I had learned about the baseball, umami boy and I had a disagreement about the meaning of “zucchini spaghetti.” One of my favorite meals growing up was spaghetti cooked al dente and tossed with sauteed zucchini and onions and lots of grated cheese. I naively suggested this dinner under the name of zucchini spaghetti one evening early in our relationship. To his great credit, umami boy really never turns down my food in the absence of a stomach virus or some equally compelling rationale. But at this suggestion, he turned the color of zucchini. And that is when I learned that to some people with gardens and compost piles, zucchini spaghetti means a bottomless bowl of soggy julienned summer squash strands and an open floodgate of bad memories.
For a while I ate zucchini only in solitary confinement (you know, for lunch at work) out of deference to my spouse. But over the years I have sought and received approval to sneak it back into the dinner routine occasionally. With some gorgeous specimens, measured in mere inches, in our CSA haul this week, I’m feeling free to make the little buggers the star of the show tonight, with this Zucchini and Saffron Vichyssoise recipe from epicurious.com. You’ll notice that this recipe involves zucchini spaghetti in the illegal sense. Since I am not pure evil, I’ve diced the full amount of squash and pureed it into the soup. It mucks up the color pretty fantastically, but for the sake of my marriage, I am confident in my decision.