Do You Have a Recipe for Muddle?

September 22, 2007

On repeated occasions I smuggled “Seeds of Change” zucchini from the island to the mainland. The state patrol dogs that sniffed my car did not bark in alarm. The Coast Guard “Men in Black” (or maybe blue) did not draw their side arms and order me to halt.

Sometimes I took zucchini with me to locations where I taught classes. I said to my students, “Normally, these classes are free. However, today there is a charge. You must accept one of my zucchini and take it home with you.”

Perhaps they thought, My instructor is a dangerous maniac. I better do as he says. In any case, some of them accepted zucchini and even smiled at me and uttered words of gratitude and appreciation. Very sensible of them, I thought.

Sometimes I took zucchini with me to my employer’s headquarters building. Sometimes I put them into the staff lunch/break room and left a note that said These zucchini escaped from the island. Please take them home with you and eat them before they attack again.

When I returned to the staff lunch/break room several hours later, the zucchini were gone. Perhaps there had been hurried, whispered discussions: Better do as he says! You take that one. I’ll take this one. Maybe that will satisfy him for today. Maybe he will let us leave the building tonight if we take zucchini with us.

Sometimes I offered them to people in my department. Some of them said, “No, thank you.” They looked at me nervously as they refused. However, I just went on to ask other people in my department. I am a serial zucchini inflictor.

There are several Susans in my department. Susan #1 used to sit directly behind me. Recently, another worker named Jean retired. Jean’s cubicle became open. Susan moved into Jean’s cubicle, thus moving her into a different row of cubicles. I thought that she moved away from our row with suspicious alacrity. She indicated as she swiftly moved her cubicle furnishings that she had always thought that Jean’s cubicle (which is bigger and nicer, and in the area where the more senior employees sit) should have been hers all along.

This may be true. Or it may be that Susan #1 wanted to sit further away from me. Not to mention my zucchini. I didn’t offer Susan #1 any zucchini.

Susan #3 now sits behind me. We get along well. (Susan #3 and Mary are the two employees who are most like me in having a serious “bad attitude” at work.) I asked Susan #3 if she would accept a zucchini.

She said, “I would love to. I will make chocolate-chip zucchini bread. May I take three of your zucchini?”

Please don’t throw me in that briar patch Brer Rabbit said to Brer Fox. No, you can’t take three zucchini I thought as I handed three zucchini to Susan #3.

Susan #2 sits next to Susan #3

Susan #2 is a vegan. Whenever we have a department pot luck or meet at a restaurant for a department occasion, Susan is concerned whether there will be something that she can eat. My chances are good I thought as I approached Susan #2’s cubicle to offer her organic zucchini. Indeed, she also took three zucchini.

The next day, she indicated that the zucchini were very good. “However, my dogs didn’t like the zucchini,” she added. She explained that she fed her two dogs vegetarian diets. She described many vegetables that her dogs happily eat. (The dogs were not present to express their opinion of the diet Susan #2 provides them.) However, the dogs drew the line at the organic zucchini, she told me. She did not tell me if the dogs barked at the zucchini, or snarled at the zucchini, or cowered in the corner at the sight of the zucchini.

Zlatina, another person in my department, speaks English well, but with a pleasant, lilting accent. When I first met her, I asked her, “Do you come from somewhere outside the United States?” (I used to worry about offending people with such questions, but so far nobody has been offended as far as I can tell, and as I have gotten old, I no longer worry as much about offending. That’s just Random, I imagine people saying to each other. Don’t mind him, he has no manners.

“I was born in Bulgaria,” she told me.

When I offered her some zucchini, she responded with enthusiasm and delight. “I love zucchini!” she exclaimed as she eagerly accepted all the zucchini I had that day.

Perhaps zucchini were not allowed to travel through the Iron Curtain in the bad old days before it fell, I thought.

Or perhaps they had lots of zucchini in Bulgaria, I thought. Perhaps instead of being an interstellar conspiracy, spreading zucchini is a Communist plot. In fact, a Google search revealed that Tikvichki is a popular dish of courgettes and yoghurt in Bulgaria. (Apparently, zucchini are known as courgettes in Europe. The deviousness of this conspiracy is infinite, I imagine, though I guess infinitely devious conspiracy is an oxymoron. Next week I will tell you about the fruit of the oxymoron plant.)

For example, after World War II ended:

World War II did not neatly end with Japan’s surrender on September 2, 1945. At its height the Japanese Empire was more than 20 million square miles of land and sea. Soldiers in isolated regions fought on for years after the surrender some unaware the war had ended, other refusing to believe. Some hid in the jungles alone, others fought in groups and continued to make attacks and conduct guerilla warfare. These men were called Japanese Holdouts, or Stragglers and their stories are some of the most fascinating human interest stories of the 20th Century.

By the same token, perhaps some Communist cells continue to exist and function after the Cold War ended. Perhaps Would you like some zucchini is a secret password. I had already told Zlatina that my ancestors had been Ukranian, and as everyone reading this is aware, the Ukraine is not that far from Bulgaria.

On the other hand, she may not be sure of me yet, so she feels she has to play along to test me by taking all the zucchini I offer her. In fact, she said she likes my zucchini so much she told me she wants to grow some zucchini of her own, and asked me about where I got the seeds. I printed out the Seeds of Change web page for her and left it in her mail box at work. If she is an international conspirator, she does not break her cover casually or carelessly.

So now I am quite muddled. Are my zucchini part of an interstellar conspiracy to invade the earth, or part of a Communist conspiracy from a Bulgarian Communist cell that refuses to believe the Cold War is over and fights on in the jungle, or part of an Interstellar Communist conspiracy?

It may be that I am completely muddled. Is muddle a dish they serve at Hogwarts? Are there courgettes in it?

By the way, when wikipedia decides to be pedantic, nobody can out pedantic them. (Pedantry is another splendid dish at Hogwarts.)

6 Responses to “Do You Have a Recipe for Muddle?”


  1. 1) I always cower in the corner at the sight of zucchini. I am a courgette submissive.

    2) I am now thinking of visiting Russia equipped with stockings, cigarettes, and zucchini. Who knows what I might accomplish?

  2. modestypress Says:

    Accomplish being stopped at the border?

    If not simply shot at the border?

  3. mommy Says:

    I’m curious about your use of the term “the Ukraine” – I know folks from there and they do not understand why we call it that. They don’t say “The Canada” or “The England.” Why do we say that?

  4. modestypress Says:

    I don’t know about Ukraine. I think actually they decided to stop saying it. As I’ve gotten old, old habits persist.

  5. modestypress Says:

    Clear as mud explanation from wikipedia

    Ukraine or the Ukraine?
    In English, the country was formerly usually referred to with the definite article, that is, the Ukraine (as in the Netherlands, the Gambia, the Bronx, the Sudan or the Congo), and sometimes still is. However, usage without the article is now more frequent, and has become established in journalism and diplomacy since the country’s independence (for example, within the style guides of The Economist, The Guardian and The Times). The use of the definite article is standard in German (die Ukraine), although this is generally required for all non-neuter place names.

    Conventional name
    Ukraine is both the conventional short and long name of the country. This name is stated in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of Ukraine. Before the independence in 1991, Ukraine was a republic of the Soviet Union known as Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic.

  6. mommy Says:

    Good enough; we can’t let this get more press than the zucchinis are getting, now can we?


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