Dining A La King: Eating pumpkin should go beyond pumpkin spice lattes
Can anyone tell me if the march of the pumpkins is over yet?
Are people done using cinnamon, clove and nutmeg as a combination that can be used to bring any food into full submission as an autumn food?
It’s no secret that in recent years, pumpkin has been thrown around as a cultural icon and into all sorts of food. Yes, these spices taste like fall, which seems to have become our symbol for goodness and love despite the fact that national elections happen then. Yes, these spices aren’t all bad, though I would remind you that some of them are common ingredients in potpourri.
Like bacon, pumpkin has been having its moment in the pop culture sun. That’s fine, though I’d argue that bacon can actually make most foods better and some pumpkin foods are travesties.
We’re in serious danger of using the orange orbs and accompanying spices too liberally. When you can’t find pumpkins in the grocery store or even pumpkin ice cream, but the cooler is stocked with pumpkin spice yogurt, something has gone afoul. When food is turned into a candle scent, we’re all at risk of oversaturation. It should stop before someone’s taste buds become scarred by the battle axe of pumpkin spice.
PopSugar.com rates all the pumpkin or pumpkin-spice foods and drinks it can find —dozens of them. Last year it was over 120 and this year there’s a list of 40.
I offer a list of five ways that pumpkin or its accompanying spices should be used and ingested. After that, you’re on your own.
1. Pie. It’s possible to mess up pumpkin pie, but it’s hard. Solid-pack pumpkin from a can with the appropriate amounts of sugar and spice really do make something nice. It’s not the edgiest pie you can put on a holiday table, but it’s traditional and safe and good and comforting in a time when too many people are yelling at each other about politics. If someone brings up the wrong candidate, you can always say,“ How about that pumpkin pie?” and you’re back in safe territory.
2. Other pumpkin desserts. Pumpkin bread? Yes. Pumpkin bars with cream cheese icing or a roll that is a prettier version of the same thing? By all means. Cookies, ice cream or cheesecake? Yes, yes and yes. The giant fruit works in all these ways.
3. At breakfast. I am a fan of a spoon or two of canned pumpkin in morning oatmeal. Pumpkin donuts (see previous category) aren’t as good as apple cider donuts, but the stand up to scrutiny. My favorite way of eating pumpkin at the moment is actually the pumpkin pancakes at Old Style Deli, 200 S. Main St. in Elkhart, available only on Fridays until they’re gone. Owner Janice Hayden serves them with toasted pecans and, if you ask politely, maple syrup. The moistness of the pumpkin is perfect for the pancake and this is the one pumpkin food that makes me swoon. (This category does not include pumpkin flavored yogurt. Ick.)
4. Roasted. This applies to the seeds and the pumpkin itself. I actually prefer substituting butternut squash for pumpkin because I think they’re more reliable, have similar flavors and are easier to handle, but this category applies to either squash or pumpkin. The seeds can be a nice, homemade snack, though I tend to always make them tough and leathery. The pumpkin can be baked until it’s soft and available for other uses, including in soup or as a fall side dish. These all strike me as using pumpkin the way it was intended.
5. In a drink. I say this carefully. I know how much some love Pumpkin Spice Lattes. I don’t. I know some people brew pumpkin-flavored coffee or use pumpkin-flavored creamer. I’d rather cope with a headache the size of the Great Pumpkin rather than have to drink that. I have been known to drink a pumpkin ale. Dogfish Head’s Punkin Ale and Southern Tier’s Imperial Pumking are both reliably good, but the problem with pumpkin beer is how many are bad and taste like pumpkin that someone allowed to rot in the field and then added to beer with too much sugar and potpourri.
We live in dangerous times. Be brave and smart as the marketers try to get you to ingest as much pumpkin as you can before winter comes.
If you love your Pumpkin Spice Latte, I won’t try to pry it out of your hand. But don’t say I didn’t warn you what can happen if we allow the march of the pumpkins to go unfettered.
I’m hungry. Let’s eat.