On the Menu Tonight: Stuffed Marrow

When I was a kid, a certain number of the books I toted home from the local Carnegie-funded public library (may Carnegie’s name be ever blessed) originated in England. They were written in English, but full of words and situations entirely foreign. I wondered for years, for example, what leaf mould might be. England seemed to be full of this exotic stuff. If the children in the books went into the woods – as they often seemed to do; the books implied that every British child lived near a paradise of nature – they always seemed to walk on something described as “a rich carpet of leaf mould”. England, I thought, must be a strange and marvelous country to have such things.

Fast forward a bit, and I learned that a torch is only a flashlight, a flask is merely a Thermos, and ginger beer is a simply a species of ginger ale. But I never did find out what was meant by another term I read in those books: vegetable marrow.

Now I have the answer. A vegetable marrow is what you get if you turn your back on a growing zuccini for a minute. When you look again, it’s half the length of a baseball bat and the diameter of one of Schwartzenegger’s biceps.

Vegetable marrows are prized in these parts. A local charity that sells leftover garden produce had a tray of marrows for sale at my doctor’s surgery (that is, his office) the other day, along with the runner beans and tomatoes, and people were buying them. People compete to grow the best ones. Prizes are given at village fêtes and at county shows: best bulls, best carrots, best raspberry jam, best vegetable marrow. I have no idea what the criteria could be for judging the best gargantuan zuccini.

I had the misfortune day before yesterday to turn my back on a zuccini—or courgette, as they say here—therefore today, I have a vegetable marrow. Here in England, I’m reliably advised, such things are split, scooped, stuffed, and baked. I was given a recipe by someone who stuffs the things with a mixture of aubergines (that’s eggplant) and potato and parsnip and turnip and carrot and a bulb of fennel. Tonight I’m going to do battle with my vegetable marrow, but I’m not trying anything nearly as…as ornate as that. I’m stuffing it the way I’d stuff a Bell pepper, and I hope the result will be something edible. If it isn’t, there’s always the chippie (fish and chip shop).

This is just one of the ways that life is better in books. A vegetable marrow in a book is a rare and romantic thing, something foreign, exotic, and infinitely superior to the huge green blimp-like item on the kitchen counter (here called the kitchen surfaces).

And when the children of those who actually grow vegetable marrows on purpose set out into the woods with their torches and their flasks to walk on the rich carpet of leaf mould, the only thing underfoot is the ground. Mould in this case means the surface soil, and leaf mould is just soil with a high proportion of decaying leaves in it.

Marvelous country, indeed.

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5 Comments

Filed under Food, Uncategorized

5 responses to “On the Menu Tonight: Stuffed Marrow

  1. Thanks for finally clarifying what those mysterious marrows I’ve read about are! I try hard to avoid growing them myself. I’ve got a couple of recipes for dealing with them…email me if you want them.

    Another item that took a little bit to figure out: flannel. Not as in wearing flannel, or flannel sheets. No, you wash your face with a flannel (which brought up interesting images to someone who associated flannel with shirts at the time).

  2. Mary K

    Oh I never did understand the enthusiasm for giant marrows. In my youth, my mother frequently served up stuffed marrow, i.e. cut in rounds and filled with minced lamb/carrot/onion and topped off with grated cheese. I daresay it was a cheap option. The only other use I know for marrow is as an extender for jam, to bulk up expensive berries, and with ginger to give it some flavour.
    Much prefer courgettes (zucchini), but they were a 1960s addition to our range of veg, along with aubergines, artichokes and garlic.

  3. Oh so that’s what a marrow is. Jeez – where I come from zucchini is best when smallest, and once it’s bigger than, say, a banana, it’s considered worthless. How funny to prize it. What’s to prize? It’s just watery bland pulp with no nutritional value.

  4. Laurel

    Thank you so much, Mary Ellen. At last I know what the nice gentleman next door keeps throwing over the wall at me.

    • He’s chucking them over the wall at you? Wow…that’s ambiguous. Does he think he’s doing you a favor or is he trying to drive you away? At least you’ve given me an idea about what to do with the next one.

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