Take these pumpkins, you!

Posted on March 24th, 2010 by Theresa

What would you do if someone gave you pumpkins? Soup them? Pie them? Put them away for Halloween? In Spain, you’d probably kick down a door and sulk. Dar calabazas a alguien, to give someone pumpkins, means to reject them, to turn them down. It used to be only hapless Don Juans who got the dud veg (fat, empty and a symbol of vain hope), but now pupils can get  pumpkins from  teachers, job applicants from would-be employees, Presidents from Senates, Zapateros from Rajoys and so on.

Oregano in my garden (1)

The thing is not to get disheartened. Life isn’t always pleasant and effortless, or as they say, inexplicably, no todo el monte es oregano – not all the hillside is oregano. It certainly isn’t: rosemary, lavender and thyme are the only herbs I ever seem to wade through when out on the monte. Perhaps I’m just not very observant.

Pumpkins, of course, form part of the much-feted Mediterranean diet. As do broad beans, which were once used in daily life for doing sums. Hence if something is said to be habas contadas, it’s a sure thing, there are no two ways about it. Then there’s en todas partes se cuecen habas: literally, wherever you go they cook broad beans. Which means (obvious innit?) that people, and their weaknesses, are the same the world over. The saying has a tail, usually left unsaid but implied: y en la mía, calderada. And in my home we cook a big pot of soup; sub-text, so who am I to criticise? Quite.

Easier to grasp are these juicy veggie put-downs. Picture the moment: Clark Gable turns to Vivien Leigh and growls: “Francamente cariño, me importa un pepino.”  Frankly dear, I don’t give a cucumber. Or a pepper (un pimiento). Or a radish (un rabano). Or an insubstantial little plant (un bledo). Whatever, there’s nothing like invoking a trifling vegetable to ride roughshod over someone else’s feelings and opinion. Or for telling them to sod off, as in ¡Véte a freir espárragos! Go fry asparagus! Strong words indeed, but mere friendly fire compared to the Latin American variation: ¡Véte a freir monas! Go fry female monkeys. Much harder to get into the pan.

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2 Responses to “Take these pumpkins, you!”

  1. Peter Harvey Says:

    Ah, the monas! As in the student who said ‘In Spain we eat monkeys at Easter.’ And just now the shops are indeed full of chocolate monkeys.

  2. Kiryna Says:

    But those “monas” in “Mona de Pascua” or “Vete a freír monas” don’t refer to female monkeys, but to the buns themselves. They are homonyms (homographs) and have different etymologies. I don’t remember the etymology for the animal “mona”, but the bun “mona” comes from Arabic. These days the Easter “mona” is mostly baked, but in the past they where fried too (or so I’ve been told).

    It seems we like to send people to do practical things. We send people to fry asparragus, monas, or either we send them to “hacer puñetas” (to make lacework for wristbands).

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