It’s that season again. The season of pumpkin. I just saw a commercial for some kind of pumpkin frappuccino coffee-type drink, presumably about three dollars and seven hundred calories – I don’t know for sure as I honestly didn’t really pay attention, for the simple reason that pumpkin is shit. I suppose I should be grateful that some sector of the retail world is happy to pause in a Fall/Halloween type promotional phase before the inexorable march to Christmas (or “Holidays”). Some stores are already in full Xmas mode, one of them before October even started, I suppose motivated by the desperate fear that people will buy the first piece of useless Santa-themed crap they see, and if they wait too long it just might be some other retailer’s crap.
So I’m all for some Fall seasonal product – I just don’t understand the seemingly enormous attraction of pumpkin. Sure, it’s a seasonal vegetable, with all sorts of Halloween and Autumnal connotations. It looks great in harvest displays, makes a nice addition to twee home décor, and in its carved form can be relied upon to brighten up any front door in October. But what on earth would possess someone to eat one?
Food tends to fall into two categories: there’s stuff that’s worthwhile to eat, and there’s stuff you put on top of it to make it taste better. Bread is good. Want to make it better? Add peanut butter, or chocolate. Potatoes are good. Just add bacon, cheese and sour cream for better. So if coffee is good, I’d suggest (should you be so inclined) that chocolate might be a good addition. Or cream, sugar or whiskey. Not pumpkin. You see, pumpkin doesn’t fall into either category – it’s neither worth eating in its own right, nor is it, in a million years, something you add to other things to make them taste better. In fact, about the only way to get anyone to choke down pumpkin flesh is to cut it severely with something tasty, like marshmallow, or sugar, or maybe heroin.
Pumpkin is shit. Given the choice between eating it and dying of starvation I’d chow down on pumpkin with the best of them, but having been blessed with the great fortune to be able to choose what to eat, I’m going to stick with carving a big smile in it and leaving it on the porch for the ants. In fact, I’m surprised that anyone can face pumpkin if they have at some stage cut the top off one to make a jack-o’-lantern. When you reach inside to drag out its guts you are assailed with the feeling of pulling hair through slime, and a smell like someone took a great big dump inside. Hardly likely to trigger a rational being to think “Hmmm – I wonder what it tastes like. Forget apples, let’s make THIS into a pie.” And then people chuck the layer of marshmallow on top that is apparently necessary to overcome their gag reflex. But if you’re going to do that, why not put marshmallow on something that actually tastes good to start with? Cheesecake Factory has more high calorie, luxury desserts in their cabinet than you could possibly bear to eat, all variations on a theme of “tastes great, pancreas set to overdrive”. Ever wonder why pumpkin isn’t a recurring theme on the ingredient list?
So why do so many companies launch pumpkin promotional flavors at this time of year? I’m assuming none of them actually taste like pumpkin. In fact I bet that’s the secret – they’re probably stuffed full of things that don’t taste at all like pumpkin. With tons of sugar. So maybe consumers come to believe they love pumpkin, as all the pumpkin pies, cakes and coffees are basically a concentrated sugar confection that someone waved a pumpkin over.
All this leads me to wonder if anyone really loses in this seasonal pumpkin con festival. Brand owners get to stimulate demand with new products. Consumers get to believe the sugary crap they eat or drink is really pumpkin flavored. And all over the country our farmers get to unload tons of worthless orange crap that for sure we would otherwise be paying price supports on for evermore. God bless free enterprise, but I’ll pass on the pumpkin frappuccino.