I just figured out what I liked about the story of Cinderella: the transformed pumpkin.
As you will recall, the mistreated heroine of the story needed a coach in which to travel to the ball, once she herself had been transformed into a beautiful maiden. After all, you couldn’t just hoof it up to the big event in your gown. So a pumpkin was transformed into a glittering carriage, elevated on giant, spindly wheels and presided over by a stately coachman (formerly a rat) who drove a team of spirited horses (which had been mice). Now, that was the way to show up at the ball.
And in a moment, the pumpkin became a star. Just as the girl had been overlooked by the family when she just needed a bit of cleaning up to dazzle everyone, so did the plump orange squash simply need to be freed of its viney headdress and swath of shrouding leaves to be seen at its best: rich in color, with a glossy glow, perfectly unique and shapely. Ready for its Rolls Royce makeover.
It is not the only transformation of a squash into a vessel of higher purpose (or, for that matter, transportation–see giant zucchini car races), but it is perhaps the one with the most imagination. Of the many things around the farm that could have been transformed into a carriage fit for a princess, the pumpkin might have been the most unlikely choice. But an inspired one.
The Cinderella pumpkin was modeled after the French variety Rouge Vif d’Etampes, a slightly flattened, elongated squash with glowing red-orange skin. It is a far cry from the tall, rotund, pale Connecticut Field variety carved up for Jack O’Lanterns on Halloween.
It’s ironic, really, because if any member of the squash family should be the icon for a transformative night of magic and costumes, this Cinderella really has the foot that fits that slipper.