When you go to buy squash in Chile, most of the time you will buy squash. Not a squash, mind you, just some. A chunk, or corte, if you will. People eat quite a bit of it, usually in cazuela, Chile’s answer to chicken-noodle soup, a homey concoction of broth, beef or chicken, a hunk of squash, a half a cob of corn and some other assorted vegetables. It’s a pretty common lunch.
In the more specialty stores, you occasionally find butternut squash, but the squash diversity ends there. There are no acorn squashes, no crook-necked ones, no patty pan, and you definitely won’t find those mottled ones your mother dried into gourds and trotted out every Thanksgiving.
The main variety of squash here in Chile is just that, squash. Zapallo. Sometimes called zapallo camote (lit: sweet potato squash), and always distinguished from zapallo italiano (lit: Italian squash, aka zucchini). It’s big and warty and kind of scary looking, smells like nothing but fresh sticky fall weather and, in the market, often has a giant knife sticking in it, as seen in the photo.
Optimistic squash vendors will cut up their whole squash before the market day starts, selling each cut (a chunk, big enough to hold in two hands) for about 200 pesos (.40 US). But if you’re not sure if you’re going to sell the whole thing, or think sales might not be that brisk, or if you have to carry the squash home again if it doesn’t sell, you can just leave it semi-whole, with the knife stuck in, waiting for someone to want some.
The first time I saw the knife-in-squash, two things occurred to me. 1. how nice to live in a place where I’m not worried that someone will grab the knife and do harm to people nearby and 2. that knife looks so much like the drywall saw my exalmostfather-in-law handed me once so many years ago when I lived in DC and was replacing the cement backerboard and retiling the tub surround.
Given the choice between squash saw and drywall saw, I choose squash. Much less dusty, and much tastier.