Many of you enjoy pumpkin pie every Thanksgiving. This blog is for the rest of us.
Next week, Americans, will celebrate Thanksgiving in various ways in their own established traditions: going to church to thank God, getting together with relatives, finding ways to avoid getting together with relatives, drinking egg nog while watching the Lions lose, or standing in line to buy yet another flat-screen television for their homes.
But for all our differences, there is one thing that unites us: pumpkin. Almost all of us will consume pumpkin next week.
But not me. This year, I’m boycotting pumpkin. I just feel like I’m being “played.”
I’ll call it the Great Pumpkin Conspiracy. It goes like this. For ten months out of the year, pumpkin appears as an ingredient in NOTHING: not pies, not coffees, not crème brulees. More than that, you’re not even supposed to entertain thoughts about pumpkin—it’s the culinary equivalent of the Christian’s impure thought: something to be quickly dispelled.
Think I’m wrong? Next time you are invited to an early spring dinner party, take a pumpkin pie. This will not go over well. A few years ago I attended a dinner party in which I was asked to bring something. To me, that meant a bag of Totino’s Pizza Rolls.
When I handed the bag to the host, the look I got was a mixture of surprise and confusion, and around the room, some (including my wife) wondered who had invited this rube. But that’s nothing compared to the look I would have received carrying in a pumpkin pie. Whispers would undoubtedly go around the room: “Psst. I wonder how long that pie has been sitting around that good-for-nothing’s house.”
They might just ask you to leave.
However, for two months out of the year, pumpkin finds its way into EVERYTHING: cheesecake, soup, cheesecake soup (I’m not kidding), lasagna, and just about everything else. The other day, I ran across pumpkin pasta sauce.
There’s a famous law in economics that says “supply creates its own demand.” No, in the case of pumpkin pasta sauce, supply creates insanity.
We are told that this is pumpkin season, and if I refuse to eat it, I am being gauche and out of style. (As you can imagine, I have faced those accusations once or twice before.) Really? Pumpkin season? That doesn’t make any sense to me.
Every time I have made pumpkin pie in my life, I have used canned pumpkin. Be honest: so have you. Here’s my question: Does canned fruit have a season? By that same logic, does Ramen Noodles have a season, too? You know when pumpkin season is? It arrives at the moment when you get out the can opener and make it pumpkin season.
I can see it now:
“Hey Jim, this is really great pumpkin pie. It tastes so fresh.”
“Well, it should! It was mass pureed in a factory two thousand miles away and sealed in a can seventeen months ago. It’s 100% pumpkin; plus there’s a little squash in there. I thought about making peach cobbler, but then I remembered that canned peaches were out of season.”
The two or three of you who are still reading this are thinking that I’ve gone off the deep end this time because you really enjoy pumpkin pie. But when you eat pumpkin pie, is it the pumpkin you enjoy?
The ingredients in pumpkin pie include delicious things like a quart of condensed milk, tons of sugar, eggs, nutmeg, and lots of cinnamon. Heck, I’ll eat zucchini pie if you put all that stuff in it.
Face it: pumpkin pie is the “stone soup” of the dessert world.
Not that I don’t have some affection for pumpkins. Growing up, every October we would go with my Dad to pick out a pumpkin for him to carve into a Jack O’Lantern. It was a big deal; my six brothers and I looked forward to it every year.
How many teeth would Dad put on the Jack O’Lantern this year? Would he have a scary “face,” or a funny “face?”
My Dad would bring it home, put it on the table, and start the process. All of us kids would gather around and watch with excitement. (Snicker if you want, kids, but remember, this is the kind of thing that people did before the internet.)
Each time, before my Dad started putting his design on the pumpkin, he would carefully and delicately scoop out the pumpkin’s contents. And throw them right in the trash. Maybe he was on to something.
By the way, I think cranberry sauce is awful, too.