August 7, 2011
How ‘bout them jumbo squash we’re getting from the Thornapple CSA these days? I bet that’s even more evidence of diversity, don’t you?
See, here’s how evolution works in squashes: The normal ordinary garden squash has a deep-seated urge to realize it’s inherent (that is, God-given) potential for flourishing. It sits there in the garden all spring, too small to be visible to the human eye. All that time the teensy little squashlet is squirming, pumpin’ and a bumpin’, just trying to break loose from vine. Finally, the moment arrives. The squashlet summons the will to break off from the vine, and the traces that remain of the vine after this separation become the squash’s outer epidermal barrier, or OED. The OED gives the squash a unique identity, which is in turn the source of the squash’s intrinsic value. It is also where most of the flavor is, which is why peeling a squash is a sin against nature. Because the squash is now intrinsically valuable, it is capable of flourishing. From now on through summer, it will push and pull, creating a hydrologic flow that channels forces from the external environment into the OED. We humans know this process as “growth”.
Humans normally interrupt the hydrologic force field that is building the intrinsic value of the squash in order to make squash casserole or zucchini bread. However, if left to its own devices, and if the forces in the Einsteinian unified field line up accordingly, the squash will continue to realize its inherent capability for flourishing inside the OED (also known as the Oxford English Dictionary). Incidentally, few know that Einstein’s unified field theory was derived from a Wisconsin initiative intended to unify fragmented fields in order to achieve greater efficiencies in the use of large farm machinery. It seems that the large tractors and harvesters had difficulty turning in the small desultory patches characteristic of the Wisconsin rural landscape circa 1922.
Which brings us back to the Mexican maize farmers around Oxaca we were discussing last week. Both regular readers will recall that I gave detailed instructions about how to find last week’s blog in last week’s blog, but since you are currently in this week’s blog, these instructions will do you no good. Suffice it to say that if your browser is working properly the link to last week’s blog is in the upper right hand corner, just like it was last week. The link to next week’s blog is in the upper left hand corner, unless you are reading this week’s blog the week of August 7, 2011, in which case next week’s blog does not yet exist and there is no link in the upper left hand corner. Of course if it’s not the week of August 7, 2011 then this week’s blog is no longer this week’s blog. Philosophers are masters of time and space.
We root for these Mexican farmers for a plethora of crackpot reasons. They are among the last holdout of true humans left on earth: the genetic purity of most Americans has been forever polluted by the demon seed of alien races from the distant planet Zircon. They cultivate maize in one of the Vavilov centers of diversity, and as such we believe that the preservation of their land race varieties of corn contain far more genetic diversity than can be preserved in seed banks, such as the one in Svalbard, Norway. The maize they cultivate is the mystic essence, now lost in the deepening mists of ages past, that lies at the source of our word “amazing”. We admire the spirit with which these farmers have endured centuries of repression and countless attempts by European colonialists who would have eradicated their cultural ways along with their maize varieties. We believe them to have secret knowledge of teleportation that allows them to find hidden exits from indoor shopping malls. We are awed by the skill they display in actively managing their crops for multiple phenotypes. We value the financial contributions they make to the Small Business Association. They exhibit extraordinary dignity in the face of poverty.
I flew to Oxaca last week in order to discover why our squash were so big. One of these small artisan farmers told me that it was because we had been having too much rain, and the farmers could not get into the fields without doing unacceptable damage to soil tilth. So those bad boys just sat there soaking up water and boasting in their ability to flourish.
Smaller squash make better casseroles. Zucchini bread is still an option, but you have to remove the seeds.
Paul B. Thompson holds the W.K. Kellogg Chair in Agricultural, Food and Community Ethics at Michigan State University