I thought about not blogging today. It seems strange to spend time thinking and writing about the banalities of butternut squash on a day with such looming significance.
I didn’t know anyone who was in the either of the Towers that day, nor did I know anyone in lower Manhattan. Back then, the only people in my sleepy suburb who worked in the city were fire fighters and police officers, and so for our town the horror of the day grew more personal as time went by– no one I knew had a parent who worked in the World Trade Center, but we all knew parents who went down to Ground Zero for weeks at a time, often unable to communicate with their families during those long shifts of sifting through the remains of what we knew. Our attempts at efficacy reflected our bizarre new reality: the blood drive organized by the senior class was cancelled when it became clear that there would be few survivors; instead we donated bagged lunches to the first responders and clean-up crews, who would be in harm’s way indefinitely.
When I left New York to attend college in DC, I would spend four September 11ths feeling a strange guilt for not being in New York, not living out the grief I felt with the people closest to the loss. Perhaps most difficult for me was the strange brand of grief I watched take shape in the rest of the country, outside New York, where it was some twisted trend to “out-9/11” the person next to you in order to validate your grief. Five years after the attacks, there were still no words to name adequately the mourning we felt for the loss of our old world order, which left many who did not have the name of a lost loved one to mourn grasping for something that would make our sadness comprehensible. It wasn’t enough just to have watched the crumbling of some 3,000 lives: soon, everyone had a story of someone they knew who had run out of Lower Manhattan, been in the Pentagon, or would have been on one of those flights, if not for some divine intervention. I never felt able to say to anyone but my roommate, who was also from a small suburb of the city, that I felt incredibly empty, that I still couldn’t watch footage from the day without weeping, or that it was difficult to make it through this day every year. Not because any one thing had changed in my life, but because everything was, in some way, completely different.
And so today I write about butternut squash spaghetti. There is no link between this dish and this day, nor do I have a clever transition from the above emotions to the below recipe. It seems that this is what we do–note the date, feel the sadness, move on to the next topic.
Butternut Squash “Spaghetti”
— 1 butternut squash (a medium will serve 2), peeled
— 3 cloves of garlic, minced
— 1.5 TBS butter (olive oil would prob work also)
— Fresh basil, to taste (optional)
— Whatever tomato sauce you like (I love this smokey marinara)
1. Using a julienne peeler (which are widely available for about $5 at most grocery stores–they look like a regular “Y” peeler with teeth), shred the skinned butternut until the seeds in the bulb are exposed. Do not make this difficult: hold the butternut vertically and move the julienne peeler down it. This will make “noodles.” Collect them in a bowl.
2. Heat the butter until it is melted over medium heat in a saucepan big enough for your “pasta.” Add the minced garlic and let that sizzle for 2-3 minutes.
3. Add the squash. Using tongs if you’ve got ’em and a spatula if you don’t, move around the pasta so spread out the butter and garlic. Then, let it sit over medium-high heat for 10-13 minutes, turning occasionally so all the “noodles” get cooked. You’ll know it’s done when it has the consistency you like your pasta to be. Throw the basil in and let it wilt.
4. Top with your favorite tomato sauce and enjoy.