Any way you slice it

This was the year of the cucurbitae, and the zucchini satisfied me beyond any intelligent need. I have tried to learn to live with it, but. . . . In my happy youth, I didn't know what a zucchini was. In my happy youth, nobody around these parts knew what a zucchini was. I'm not sure, but I hope we were introduced to the zucchini by summer folks, along with other foibles such as ''have a good day , now'' and ''if you're ever down our way. . . . '' The first zucchinis I ever saw were in the cottage plot of a man from away, who couldn't grow a real squash in his July 4th-to-Labor Day tillage. The period of gestation for the zucchini is a boon to the seasonal visitor.

In my youth, referred to above, we used the green Hubbard. It was reliable, and moderate in its habits. It was ''dry,'' which was accounted useful, and its flavor was as squashy as anybody needed. It kept well in storage, and a surplus could be worked off on the hogs for the good of the order. This was before people spoke of recycling, and before anybody thought of hybrids. Green Hubbard seed could be kept year after year - it didn't ''cross'' because there was nothing in the garden for it to cross with. If seed ran out, neighbors had plenty. Fine as a vegetable, it also made better punkin pie than pumpkins.

That was back before the mail-order seed business sprouted and competition led each company to seek improvements and oddities others wouldn't have. There was general amazement when the blue Hubbard appeared and ran the green Hubbard right out of the big-squash contest at the fair. Then came a yellow cousin, and squash went wild. I recall my first tangle with patty pans, and how the hogs wouldn't touch them. The acorn was good, but not all that better than a green Hubbard. The little table queens were a novelty, and if you applied enough butter and maple syrup they would taste like a sundae, fairly palatable. And then one February as I was making out my order, I heard, ''Why don't you try some of these zucchinis?'' Truth to say, it really was a bit of fun to order surprises and then find out in August what you'd done.

Come planting time, I tossed down enough zucchini seed for four hills, thinking the whim would pass and next year I could have that space for green Hubbards. I forget how long I was absent, but it was no great while, and I came back to see that my seeds had sprouted enthusiastically. Maybe 15 minutes later I looked into the jungle that had accrued, and it looked like the bat rack at Yankee Stadium. I pushed a wheelbarrow load of the things to the house and got, ''What am I supposed to do with all them!''

This query must have been common throughout the world at that time. The inventive genius of mankind worked on it, and in no time the household editors and the cookery sections were devoting their all to the use of zucchinis. Recipes proliferated nearly as fast as the zucchinis, and a cookbook devoted entirely to zucchinis became a best seller. There was one helpful article that included a complete dinner, nothing but zucchinis. First came a zucchini juice appetizer, followed by an iced zucchini sherbet. The zucchini with anchovies was followed by an entree of zucchini quiche with zucchini casserole a la bonne heure with hot zucchini rolls, zucchini rind sweet pickles, and sweet-sour zucchini pilaf. Dessert was a choice of baked zucchini Alaska au flambeau or zucchini ice cream.

''Pick 'em when they're little!'' I was told. ''You let 'em grow too big! They're best when they're small.'' People that cry that from the kitchen are unaware that the difference between a big zucchini and a little zucchini is 35 seconds.

It is entirely possible that the reader may get the idea that I am not the world's greatest fancier of the zucchini. True, I can grow 40 cords of zucchinis where I might have a bunch of radishes or a snatch of scallions. But I like radishes and I like scallions, and I have not been able to persuade Boise-Cascade to buy my surplus zucchinis and produce a pressed-zucchini construction wallboard. I think, too, that zucchini oil may be good for greasing roller skates. But lacking commercial application, so long as the zucchini is for human consumption here's one gardener with a green Hubbard memory.

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