La Zucca

by Luigi Guarino on July 17, 2008

That early stirring of globalization that was the Columbian Exchange changed Italian food and cooking forever. That’s well known. What would pizza be like without pomodori and peperoncini, after all? There’s also polenta — and pasta e fagioli. And no doubt also traditional potato-based dishes, though I can’t think of one just now. But the third member of the Mesoamerican Trinity is often forgotten when the usual suspects of the exchange are trotted out, as I’ve just done.

Which is a pity, because the pumpkin features in some pretty nice dishes.1 So it was nice to see it celebrated last week in Tolentino. We found this sculpture in the piazza which houses the regular fruit and veg market.

On the wall is the text of an ode to the vegetable (or fruit, but I’m not going there) by the local poet Giovanni Sebastiani (1874-1959). You can read “La Zuccahere. But don’t ask me to translate. The local Marche dialect is all but impenetrable to me.

  1. Ok, I cheated a bit. The Mesoamerican trinity is maize, beans and squash, rather than pumpkin, but you know what I mean. []
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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Phillip IV July 26, 2008 at 8:16 pm

A traditional Italian potato-based dish? Gnocchi di patate! =)


JoJo July 26, 2008 at 9:47 pm

And no doubt also traditional potato-based dishes, though I can’t think of one just now.

Looking in my copy of Whiteman & Boggiano’s Encyclopedia of Italian Cooking, on page 422 I found tortino di patate e zucca or, in the vulgar tongue, “potato and pumpkin pudding.” I’d try it, but it happens I really hate the taste of pumpkin.


djlactin July 27, 2008 at 2:43 pm

Personally, of the trinity, squashes are superfluous.
Can’t live without potatoes. Can’t imagine life without beans. Squash…, um, what?


Luigi July 28, 2008 at 8:50 am

Yes, of course: gnocchi, tortino. What was I thinking? Or NOT thinking?


zavorka July 29, 2008 at 11:10 am

nice blog, I translated in my july posts the poem,
the Marche dialect is translated freely as follows:

a globous pumpkin,
a day it was laying on ground,
had the strange desire
to climb on a building..
“I would be a fool to stay down here
-while talking to itself-
I get tired to get stumps
and kicks everytimes”

try and try agian, after a while
really it got up
over a roof and there found its position..

But a cat, that was taking the sun,
as soon as got a look of it,
greeted the pumpkin with a laugh
and said these words:
” only you was missing
to annoy me.. neither up here
I can stay in peace… who brought you
my humbless Miss pumpkin?

” forgive me, my wisdomed cat,
by myself I came…
do you think that I am not able to do anything?
the pumpkin answered…
and the cat: “tell me, then,
when you learnt these new things?
but, you have potatoes in your head,
in these times, who doesn’t know that
a pumpkin has a meaningless value?

“Well, hear, how many wrong sentences”
said a horse at pasture,
few steps from them;
“you don’t know society, my cat,
you lack knowledge…
but why, don’t you know
that only pumpkin heads
these times come floating up to surface?

and, since nobody
was answering to him,
the horse concluded with this:
“in the present days, my friends,
the best positions are honoured
only with pumpkins and donkeys!


zavorka July 29, 2008 at 11:30 am

BTW, have you ever tried the pumpkin soup with tofu cubes? a japanese summer dish, fresh and tasty, kind of “vellutata”.
it’s delicious, and I prefer it to the italian dish “tortelli di zucca”.


Luigi July 29, 2008 at 12:16 pm

Thanks for the translation, that’s really great! I’ve tried pumpkin soup, of course, but not with tofu cubes. I shall have to give it a go.


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