For a decade, our little town of West Stockbridge held a Zucchini Festival every August. The brainchild of the local Cultural Council, it began as a tongue-in-cheek tribute to that most underappreciated and, by the time August rolled round, largely unwanted garden vegetable. Lenox had its Tanglewood. Becket its Jacob’s Pillow. West Stockbridge? We claimed the zucchini. There were t-shirts and hats, games and contests. We sold zucchini breads and zucchini soup. There was a zock catapult where the lowly summer squash could be launched into the air and land with a gratifying splat many yards away. My husband and I manned the zocket toss, a bean bag game, for the under 5 crowd. Vendors sold crafts and food. As the years went by, we added more games and dancing in the street after dark and fireworks. There was a pet parade. The crowds grew. Parking became a problem. The police had to direct traffic. There were never enough volunteers and tempers began to fray. Like zucchini itself often enough, the festival became bloated and too big for its own good. After ten years, it was decided enough was enough.
I thought of the festival the other day when, poking around in an overgrown vegetable bed, I discovered a zucchini the size of a watermelon. I had no doubt it would have won the prize for largest zucchini at the festival — and briefly felt a burst of pride. But then I remembered that, as had been the case for millenia before the festival, nobody really cared that much about zucchini anymore.
Here’s a humorous poem on the subject by Marge Piercy to help lighten the lengthening shadows of these last glorious days of summer.
Attack of the Squash People
By Marge Piercy
And thus the people every year
in the valley of humid July
did sacrifice themselves
to the long green phallic god
and eat and eat and eat.
They’re coming, they’re on us,
the long striped gourds, the silky
babies, the hairy adolescents,
the lumpy vast adults
like the trunks of green elephants.
Recite fifty zucchini recipes!
Zucchini tempura; creamed soup;
sauté with olive oil and cumin,
tomatoes, onion; frittata;
casserole of lamb; baked
topped with cheese; marinated;
stuffed; stewed; driven
through the heart like a stake.
Get rid of old friends: they too
have gardens and full trunks.
Look for newcomers: befriend
them in the post office, unload
on them and run. Stop tourists
in the street. Take truckloads
to Boston. Give to your Red Cross.
Beg on the highway: please
take my zucchini, I have a crippled
mother at home with heartburn.
Sneak out before dawn to drop
them in other people’s gardens,
in baby buggies at churchdoors.
Shot, smuggling zucchini into
mailboxes, a federal offense.
With a suave reptilian glitter
you bask among your raspy
fronds sudden and huge as
alligators. You give and give
too much, like summer days
limp with heat, thunderstorms
bursting their bags on our heads,
as we salt and freeze and pickle
for the too little to come.