Thanksgiving is coming, Thanksgiving is coming! Along with the traditional bird comes all the trimmings, and side dishes which can vary greatly from family to family and region to region.
Take, for instance, the famous broccoli ring served with creamed onions that has graced my table for over thirty years. It started because my dad loved the creamed onions. The broccoli ring was simply a colorful way of dressing up the onions and even though Dad passed away in 1983, I make the dish in his honor.
In our family, there will be the typical stuffing, mashed potatoes, a yam casserole with tiny marshmallows on top, and a bowl of corn for Squanto. And now there will be Hubbard squash! Until a few years ago I didn’t know about the Hubbard. Thanks to Match.com I have a new challenge: find the Hubbard!
I met David on Match right after his divorce. It was his first year of being on his own during the holidays and he was a bit nervous about cooking the Thanksgiving dinner for his grown children and their spouses. He knew from my profile that I had been a chef on a charter boat in the Caribbean, so he asked me for tips on cooking the feast. When he told me he was searching for a particular type of squash that was traditionally served in Maine, his home state, I asked him what type it was.
David got a dreamy look on his face and said, “It’s called Hubbard squash. It’s the best! Better than Butternut by far. It’s blue and has a very tough shell. You practically need a chainsaw to cut it, but it’s so worth it.”
Wanting to make a good impression, I made a note-to-self, “Look for the Hubbard and surprise him.” Little did I know how rare they are in California. I set about the search. I went to all the likely candidates – Safeway, Capitola Produce, Sunnyside Produce, New Leaf Market, and Whole Foods. Nobody had a Hubbard. Nobody even knew what it was. The produce manager told me they were expecting a shipment the next day and to come back then. I didn’t hold much hope.
The next day I parked my car and started walking toward the market. From a fair distance away, my eyes landed on something blue in the large display of squash that had been set up outside the store. My heart rate quickened, my step sped up, and my arms reached out to get to the blue squash.The tag said Hubbard! Yes, I found the Hubbard! I bought two – one for David and one for me. I had to try it after the buildup he gave it. I mean, really, how good could it be? Squash is squash.
Well…not really. Turns out there is a huge variety of squash. You got your summer and winter varieties. Among the winter squash you have Acorn, Butternut, Gold Nugget, Delicata, Spaghetti, Turban, Calabaza, and many more including, of course, Hubbard.
David and I lost touch, I moved to Costa Rica, and didn’t give much thought to squash – we were lucky to get a turkey and potatoes thanks to the influx of expats. In the old days, we had to carry a frozen turkey on the plane if we wanted one for the American holiday.
Now that I’m living in Capitola again, I’m back to observing all the traditions. In preparation for this year’s Thanksgiving, I went to Whole Foods to pick up the Hubbard. I marched right up to the squash table and scanned for the blue one. I didn’t see it, so I approached the young man working in the produce section.
He was friendly and helpful when I asked him if they had any Hubbards. “What’s that?” he asked.
Hmmmm…not so easy this time, I thought. He called his manager to see if any Hubbards would be coming in. He shook his head as he approached me. Still smiling, he said, “Nope, we’re not getting any more squash. The closest thing would be the Red Kuri.” I think they just wanted to get rid of me.
I wasn’t about to give up so easily.
I went to Sunnyside Produce. Twice. I went to Capitola Produce, New Leaf Market, Trader Joe’s, and then it hit me. DeLuxe Foods! Why didn’t I think of it sooner? It’s located in Aptos and that is probably why. It’s only two exits south on the freeway, but Capitola people just don’t go to Aptos.
Am I glad I did! DeLuxe Foods is a family owned independent market that is known for its friendly service. For a relatively small market, they have an amazing array of goods. And if they don’t have what you want, they will get it for you.
I perused the huge display of squash on the enormous table. I spotted something blue…is it? Is it? Could it be the Hubbard? Nope. Too easy. Whatever the blue thing was, it must have been something special. The price was $15.99! For one.
I asked the guy working in the produce department if they had any Hubbards. His enthusiastic reply was, “Well, we did have some. Looks like we are all sold out. Let me get your name and number and we’ll get you one. We’ll call you when it comes in.”
Just like that.
A few days went by and I got no call. I thought to myself, yeah sure. You’ll call me when it comes in. Hmmmfft. They probably threw my number out. So I decided I would just go there and see for myself. Maybe they got a shipment.
As I was about to get in the car I noticed a missed call and voicemail, “Carole Jean, hi. This is José from DeLuxe Foods. We have your case of Hubbard squash. I’ll hold it in the back for you.”
Case?! A case of Hubbards? I only wanted one. But hey, it never rains but it pours. It’s raining Hubbards. Whoo hoo! DeLuxe, hold on. I’m coming!