More than one way to skin a squash

By Daniel Dunkle | Jan 05, 2012

The holiday season has gone by in such a blur of activity that I realized I never even had a chance to write about it.

Remember how when you were a kid, it would seem like such a long time getting from Thanksgiving to Christmas? It was practically an era. I remember one year I proposed going to bed earlier every night so that I could sleep my way to Christmas. Every morning I would be one day closer to the main event. If I could have, I would have slept straight through in one of those cryogenic chambers from "Alien."

My parents remember that as the Best Christmas Ever.

As an adult, I find myself saying, “That's next week, already? I should probably go pick something up for Christine pretty soon.”

So I will collect here just a few highlights from the busy season.

The only thing I really remember about Thanksgiving this year was that the squash nearly defeated me. We had, for some reason, decided to have Thanksgiving at our house and invite everyone there. At some point during the cooking operation, Christine handed me a butternut squash and asked me to peel it.

I've been peeling potatoes and onions, carrots and cucumbers for years, and I approached the squash with supreme confidence. Armed with the one knife we have in the house that's sharp (is your house like that?), I began to attack this thing. Soon smoke was coming off the vegetable, the blade was bent and my arm was sore like I had just pitched a nine-inning no-hitter. For all of that effort, I had managed to put a tiny chip in the exterior of the squash.

No vegetable was going to beat me! As my father always said, “Can't never tried,” and with renewed fervor, I attacked the tough tan flesh of the thing, sawing and grinding. I was afraid of breaking the knife, the way a man marooned on an island could scarcely afford to break his one metal tool. This was the one sharp knife, but it is sharp no more.

Christine asked what the holdup was.

“The only thing that will cut squash is squash!” I said. “Do we have a blade made of squash?”

I pictured engineers in a factory milling cool steel. “This stuff won't cut easy. Bring in the squash-tipped saw!”

Eventually, the squash was punished justly by being dropped in a caldron of boiling water. Then my wife produced a turnip the size of my head, this great hard waxy thing.

“What do you mean to do with that?” I asked her.

She shrugged. We set it on the stand by the stove and that's where it remained for the entire holiday season. With no sharp knife remaining and no true desire to eat turnip, we decided instead to name it Wilson and talk to it like Tom Hanks in "Cast Away."

It seemed like we just blinked and it was Christmas morning. Samantha, our six-year-old, woke us early with the joyous words: “It's Christmas!” The kids tore into their candy and toys. Our sleek black cat seemed to swim in a sea of wrapping paper.

Christine soon regretted the gift of a double-barrel Nerf shotgun for Wesley. As soon as she was out of the room, I started firing it into the Christmas tree to see if the new ornaments really were, as advertised, unbreakable.

We've not yet taken the tree down. It's nice to sit on the couch, a cozy fire crackling on the flatscreen TV and watch the cat gag itself on the green plastic branches.

The TV fire thing was fun. It was offered on Netflix instant streaming. You click on it, and it is treated like any other television show. The kids kept groaning because every time they would say, “What can we watch?” I would hit a button and here were three logs crackling and burning on the screen. “Wait, let me fast-forward to the good part,” I said, buzzing ahead. Thirty minutes in, it was still just those burning logs.

There was a button for “more episodes” of crackling fire.

“Previously on yule log,” I joked as I went to episode two, which was the same thing only with some instrumental holiday music in the background.

After we watched it, Netflix decided to offer us suggestions under the category: “Like Holiday Fireplace.” It offered suggestions of several television shows and movies including “The Twilight Zone,” leaving us to wonder how exactly a burning log is like a science fiction TV show.

For New Year's Eve, we were invited out to a gathering at a friend's house. It's always good to be fashionable for these things, so Christine decided to let the six-year-old cut her hair. I came home and Christine said, “Do you like my hairdo?” Here was a chunk of blond hair missing from one spot on the back of her head, while it was still long on either side.

It reminded me of that scene in “Sixteen Candles” where the girl gets her hair stuck in the door and her friends cut her free, though not quite so extreme.

So before we went to the party, Christine's mother had to fix the damage, and my wife's hair is quite a bit shorter than it was in 2011.

Then, with a quick kiss and the dropping of a ball in Times Square, the season was over.

Now I can only hope the rest of the winter goes by just as fast.

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