Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Marrows

There are so many things to say; I'm incessantly composing blogs in my head. But I'll restrict this one to the marrow.

The marrow? What the heck is a marrow?, my U.S.-based readers may well ask. And well you may. A marrow is an overgrown courgette. Simple as that.

What is a courgette?, they ask in frustration. OK, I'll tell you. A courgette is a zucchini.

So the English call the small oblong green-striped vegetable a courgette, which is directly from the French, whereas Americans call it a zucchini, which is the plural (and seemingly incorrect plural form) of the Italian zucchina. Whether Americans somehow misconstrued the plural zucchine (such mistaken adoptions being a time-honored linguistic tradition) or whether it is an irregular plural or an older form in the Italian, I don't know. Perhaps someone reading this will, and can send me a comment or email. Why the Americans adopted the Italian word is also a mystery, but I suspect it may be that the original source for the vegetable (or the vegetable name) was Italy. Another time-honored linguistic tradition; for an illustration of this, see the word for turkey (a native American bird) in many different languages.

Now, as for the marrow, it is called a courge in French, and likely a zucca in Italian (although I haven't been able to verify that; however, it would appear that zucca is the Italian equivalent of the American "large squash"). Courgette is the diminutive of courge, and likewise zucchina/zucca. But in England they become courgette/marrow and in America zucchini/squash. I'll lay odds that squash is from a Native American language; note, however, that it doesn't specifically refer to a marrow. Squash is a more generic term describing the entire family of squashes, including zucchini, spaghetti, pumpkin, butternut, crookneck, and many more. I would assume marrow comes from some native language of the British Isles. The truth is, people in the U.S. just don't see marrows around. If we did, we'd probably call them giant zucchinis, or some such. But for some reason, they're not grown.

OK, I admit that I have a good idea of the reason. They have so little flavor as to be fairly unappealing. It's not that they taste bad, it's that they don't taste at all. You see, I tried cooking a marrow by stuffing it with a spicy sausage and rice stuffing, thinking it might make for an interesting meal. The reality was that I preferred to scoop out the stuffing and leave the marrow behind. Next time, I told my husband, I'll stuff an eggplant. Uh, aubergine.

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