There are two kinds of people in the world: those who welcome the autumnal onslaught of pumpkin-spiced everything, whose taste buds crave cinnamon and sugar paired delectably with a certain spectacular squash, and those with bad taste. I proudly call myself among the former.
This is MY TIME. Pumpkin season. The official launch comes when Starbucks announces the annual return of the PSL (my pumpkin peeps need no further explanation; for the rest of you, “PSL” is what serious consumers call the Pumpkin Spice Latte).
And so begins my favorite season, when the photos of food people post online include delights like the one I saw yesterday: Pumpkin Cheesecake Snickerdoodles. If those aren’t the three most mouth-watering words in the English language, I don’t know what are. They were accompanied by a photo that can only be described as hard-core food porn.
If pumpkin lovers gave awards for innovation and output, the hands-down winner would be Trader Joe’s. The product developers in their corporate headquarters must enjoy a little too much pumpkin liqueur (yes, it’s a thing, and it’s delicious) when they brainstorm, because they come up with some fantastic ways to use this gorgeous gourd.
My list is from memory and therefore not exhaustive, but Trader Joe’s sells pumpkin ice cream, pumpkin butter, pumpkin toffee, pumpkin cereal bars, pumpkin spice granola, pumpkin truffles and pumpkin pancake and waffle mix. Their pumpkin bread mix is so awesome that customers stock up in the fall and carefully ration their supplies for the rest of the year (I may know this from personal experience).
For the next couple of months, all grocery store shelves will overflow with limited edition tempting treats. Pumpkin donuts. Pumpkin yogurt. Pumpkin Pop Tarts. Pumpkin spiced nuts. Pumpkin coffee. Pumpkin cookies. Pumpkin muffins and bagels. I purchased a six-pack a pumpkin beer the other day, which I love but my serious beer-drinking friends find disgusting.
Even restaurant menus cater to folks like me. Pumpkin soup to start. Pumpkin cheesecake and pumpkin crisp on the dessert menu. Salads topped with pepitas, a charming name for pumpkin seeds that implies they might at any moment begin dancing to mariachi music on top of my arugula. I even saw a pumpkin martini on a menu recently, although that seemed to me a bridge too far.
After all, it’s possible to go wrong with pumpkin. I typed “pumpkin spice…” into my search engine and Google, with its eerie Big Brother ways, tried to guess what I would type next. The first choice was a pleasing “pumpkin spice latte.” But what came next? “Pumpkin spice tampon.” I was too afraid to click the link.
Despite my fondness for all things pumpkin, I have never actually cooked one. I get little ones in my farm share and stage them on my porch a la Martha Stewart. They are suggestively called “pie pumpkins” but I’m not tempted to go down that road. I’d probably slice off a finger trying to make it pie-ready, and after hours of preparation the finished product wouldn’t be nearly as good as the pie Costco is willing to sell me for $5.99.
The grand finale and the conclusion of the season come when I serve the pumpkin pie that follows Thanksgiving dinner. Once I push back from the table, wash the dishes and put away the silver, pumpkin season is officially over. Pumpkin lovers everywhere say goodbye to the tastes of fall and turn to the flavors of December…