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The return of the pumpkin cynic

Peter, Peter Pumpkin Eater didn’t fulfill the terms of his contract. There are still pumpkins left. Everywhere.

Besides, they are a renewable resource, and trying to rid the pumpkins of autumn is like trying to rid my garden of rabbits. Ain’t gonna happen.

Before Labor Day, I saw the annual ads for pumpkin donuts and muffins, and the pumpkin spice lattes to wash them down. I commented to dear Richard, “It’s 93 degrees outside, and we’re seeing pumpkin cappuccinos? Give me a break.” Next year, we’ll probably see pumpkin spice watermelon on the Fourth of July.

It’s not that I mind looking at the orange squashes. Many of my neighbors have pumpkins on their front steps, lining their porches and filling their window boxes. And, come Thanksgiving, I’m just as susceptible to punkin pie as any other holiday over-indulgers.

But why, a month before the first day of autumn, did we begin seeing the orange gourds advertised everywhere – in everything. Now it’s October, the quintessential autumn month, and PUMPKIN EVERYTHING IS BACK. I try to ignore it, but it’s a challenge. Actually, I think it’s more the pumpkin spice flavor that is so ubiquitous.

On a recent trek to Buffalo, we made a side trip to Trader Joe’s. I always buy a few favorite items there, and Joe usually has intriguing seasonal offerings. But be careful what you wish for. TJ’s was FULL of everything pumpkin. And someone’s imagination had run riot.

The pumpkin bin was outside at the entry door – I get that — ’tis the season. But inside? Orange is the new black. Pumpkin spice was everywhere. They had Pumpkin Spice Espresso Beans, a kind of “candy” made with dark roast coffee beans, white chocolate, pumpkin powder and pumpkin pie spice, to which they added turmeric to get to the “hallmark hue of pumpkin season.” This creation was touted to satisfy “whenever the craving for Pumpkin Spice strikes.” I wanted to tell them, that would be never. The craving never strikes. Ever.

A trip around the usually fun store bombarded me, the Pumpkin Cynic, with the parade of seasonal spice at every turn, at every aisle endcap.

There were the typical pumpkin bread, muffin, and pancake mixes. And I expected the pumpkin squash soup (theirs was a bisque). But then the exotica set in: a pumpkin oat beverage that happened to be vegan, gluten free and kosher. I suppose if you’re a Jewish person of the vegan persuasion who struggles with a tender tummy milk allergy, this would be perfect. But for me? Fuggedaboudit.

And then the different cultural cuisines got into the act. There was Pumpkin Spice Hummus, which they suggest one plunges into with tiny pumpkin spice pretzels. They couldn’t be tiny enough to suit me.

The freezer section yielded Indian-inspired Spicy Pumpkin Samosas, little cousins to the Pumpkin Empanadas nearby. But this international pair didn’t hold a candle to the Italians. And exploring that subject taught me something.

I stumbled across the Honey Roasted Pumpkin Raviolis, and thought to myself. “What self-respecting Italian would eat pumpkin raviolis?” Especially when served with the suggested Autumnal Harvest Creamy Pasta Sauce. (By now I bet you can guess the prime ingredient of that orange sauce.)

So I got nosy. I googled pumpkins in Italy and learned some stunning facts. Italy grows more pumpkins than we do! They are popular in the cuisine of all twenty regions of Italy, and show up in pumpkin risotto, tortellini, and gnocchis. Trader Joe’s was even offering an additional topping, Pumpkin Alfredo Sauce. Whoa.

I mistakenly thought that pumpkins were native to America. Wrong. They are originally from Mexico, but grow on every continent except Antarctica. Arrgghh. You mean no matter where I go, there’s no avoiding them?!

Before I broke out of Joe’s pumpkin wonderland, I saw pumpkin Greek yogurt, pumpkin overnight breakfast oats, pumpkin butter, dog treats, brioche, cookies, ice cream, cream cheese, dip, bagels, cheesecake, crackers, and on. And on.

In the week since that spicy trip, I’ve been surrounded on more than a few occasions by pumpkin candles. And then I saw an ad at the eye doctor’s in Erie — pumpkin spice frames. Glasses frames touting, not taste or aroma, but the color of pumpkin spice. What could be more flattering? I give up.

Honda and Toyota are probably cooking up next year’s colors – maybe pumpkin pearl platinum? And you know that wonderfully rich new-car aroma? It’ll probably be … now you’re getting the picture.

America, you’ve lost your mind over this Halloween/Thanksgiving season … that somehow begins in August.

And I can’t even go to Rome to escape it. Oh. My. Gourd.

Marcy O’Brien writes from Warren, Pennsylvania, where she and Dear Richard live with Finian, their narcoleptic Maine Coon Cat. She can be reached at Moby.32@hotmail.com.

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