A recent tweet by The Washington Post posed the question: “Has America reached peak pumpkin?”
My one word response: No. Followed by “duh,” which is actually a two-word response, but whatever. You get the point: America can never have too much pumpkin. Not in my latte, not in my doughnut, not in my pancake, not in my soup nor my raviolis nor my cheese nor my beer nor my anything. Cat food? Sure. Play dough? Of course. There can never be too much pumpkin. And why, you ask, can there never be too much pumpkin?
Because pumpkin – as any simpleton is aware – is the international sign (in America) of autumn.
We in the Central Valley have been politely (and by politely I mean “gritting our teeth, throwing ourselves face-down on the carpet, full-on 2-year-old nasty tantrum screaming”) waiting for autumn since last April (and that is in no way an exaggeration on any point).
Next to nobody in this area loves summer (except maybe the liars and sick weirdos who are just fine with bad air, 108-degree days and wildfires) for much more than a few weeks, and summer here begins in late April. By the end of May we’re all a little wistful for the tule fog. I’ll grant that we adore our July Fourth holiday in these parts – who doesn’t enjoy the brotherly love that comes with a swim party barbecue celebrating our nation’s birth?
1796First known reference to “pumpkin spice” appears in “American Cookery,” the nation’s first cookbook.
Come late August, though, and any semblance of the rational, patriotic individuals we pretended to be just a few weeks before has deteriorated. We’re grumpier. We’re tired of how our pants stick to our thighs after a two-minute car ride. We’ve grown sick of hiding indoors in the air conditioning we can’t live without and that stupid ticking sound the fan makes when we try to sleep. Conversations among those of us not on oxygen tanks have devolved into constant comparisons of asthma doctors or the sharing of allergy-medication cocktail recipes. Nobody walks in this heat; everybody shambles. And we all dare to occasionally hope that water – that strange, beautiful, elusive substance – just might, in some odd form or fashion, magically fall from the sky.
At our worst, on 98-degree days we accidentally have bad thoughts – silent, private, nasty, cruel, jinxing thoughts – that perhaps, maybe, possibly, the reign of the triple-digit summer might be over.
… And then the next day, when a six-day run of 103-plus days begins, we all look at each other menacingly as we try to figure out which among us is to blame for the ongoing misery. Which one of us had the temerity – the sheer audacity – to hope that summer would end?
That’s when we look at the grocery shelves and notice it must be mid-September. There’s a scent in the air – not the soot, that other scent – a sweet, spicy, hopeful scent. Pumpkin. It’s still sweltering outside; wildfires still burn and we’re still wearing shorts to formal occasions. But the appearance of pumpkin, now in our lattes, in our pancakes, in our raviolis and soup and beer and donuts, allows us to finally verbalize the obvious. Indeed: Despite what the thermometer or the calendar says, corporate America has declared the arrival of autumn.
And then magic water drizzles from the sky for just a few hours, and we are all in a heavenly, delirious state of bliss.
Reached our peak? Good lord, no. Please. Bring on the pumpkin.
Hop over to www.fresnobeehive.com for a sampling of tasty pumpkin-based recipes.