8 Apr /14

Zucchini or Courgette

As we saw yesterday, squash found its way into English in the 1600s. The plant was exported from the Americas to Europe. Fast forward almost 400 years and the plant makes its appearance in Italy and France. Both words translate as small squash (zucca is the Italian word for squash, courge is the French equivalent).

But the route to English and American tables was a very different one. The zucchini almost certainly found its way back home in a slightly more elegant form with Italian immigrants, a little what happened with the broccoli. The revised version of the squash in the form a zucchini is first recorded in the US lifestyle magazine Sunset in 1929 in a recipe which recommends that the zucchini be cleaned and sliced into a baking pan. It became very successful and became one of the key ingredients of the dish ratatouille.

Courgette came to England at virtually the same time. The front man for the courgette was Frenchman Marcel Boulestin who loved England so much that he decided to live in London. He opened up a very expensive French interior design store and wrote about French cooking in such best sellers as Simple French Cooking for English Homes or What Shall We have Today? 365 Recipes for All the Days of the Year. And besides courgette he really does have another claim to fame. He was the world’s very first television cook. In the early days of the BBC, Boulestin cooked up a meal in his first performance as early as 1937 in a program called A Scratch Meal with Marcel Boulestin.

He also opened a restaurant, cashing in on his chef fame. Naturally enough it was called Boulestin, which was renowned as the most expensive restaurant in England. He introduced the idea a la carte in England. This meant that some of the richest people in the world had to wait for their food because it came to the table fresh.

In his 1931 recipe book, he has a recipe call courgettes a l’orientale. At the end of the recipe, he jokingly writes that “the dish can also be done quite effectively with vegetable marrow, which is, I understand, a kind of grown-up courgette”.

Ironically what had previously been a staple of the Indians had now become an upmarket item.

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