Wednesday, September 19, 2012

An Open Letter to Seasonal Pumpkin Flavored Treats

Hello all of my TERP Muffins!  Yes, I know the blog is slow.  I am still going to trot out the same excuses.  My new job has definitely changed my routine and life a bit.  Even though I don’t work longer hours, I don’t have the same lifestyle working in the big city that I had working in the suburbs.  I used to spend my lunch hour shopping at one of the multiple grocery stores down the street from the office.  I just would load up my car, stash the perishables in the office fridge, then drive everything home and be ready to cook as soon as I came through the door.  

I can’t even tell you where the nearest grocery store to my office is.  Shopping on my lunch hour is a thing of the past.  Occasionally I’ll pick up some stuff for meals at Grand Central Market before I head on the train home, but that’s a very pricey expedition.  Now I have to wait until I come home to shop.  I have to take the train home then hop in my car to the grocery store and lose an hour of cooking time to the time needed shopping.  If I’m lucky I can get to the grocery store or the farmer’s market on weekends, but since I spend my weekend with my horses who live 70 miles away, I’m not always lucky.  

My creativity hasn’t been bubbling to the surface much either.  I really haven’t come up with a new recipe.  My brain is too full lately.  I do have something in the works for the coming weeks though, so if you’re willing to check in here now and then, I will have a few brand new recipes.  Everything is still in development though and will be rolled out for a special occasion.

Another aspect of my job is how internet access is limited in ways it wasn’t at my old job.  Sites are often blocked.  I can read food blogs, but when I try to comment, the internal systems autofills my contact info with company data.  That always feels a bit Big-Brother-ish to me, so I only comment when I’m home.  Of course I don’t have as much time at home as I used to because I am spending so many of my home hours shopping and cooking.  Please know I’m still following my favorite blogs.  You are my inspiration and my connection to my cooking hobby.  

Ironic that when I finally buy a new camera, one that I like to think will help me takes better food shots, I find myself blogging less.  

So back to the topic of blocked websites: I do have downtime at work.  It’s not crazy-busy.   Downtime can be hard to deal with because sites are blocked. Forget about Facebook or personal email accounts(although they can’t stop the entire population of the office from regular check-ins from their phones).  Humor sites are mostly blocked too.  I can’t read The Onion anymore for example.  The one humor site I can still read is McSweeneys. I have become a regular devotee of McSweeney’s lately.

McSweeney’s has a regular column of Open Letters To People Or Entities That Are Unlikely To Respond.  Some of them are quite amusing.  Sometimes you can find yourself agreeing vigorously with a writer’s beef against some minor injustice and other times it opens your mind up to annoyances you never would have considered.  

Recently I looked at An Open Letter Pumpkin Flavored Seasonal Treats.  I was really looking forward to reading it.  I thought perhaps the author shared my distaste for the onslaught of pumpkin-flavored everything that runs from September to November.  To my horror, the author was not on my side.  She was actually upset with the pumpkin-flavored smorgasbord for only lasting through the fall months and not returning again for a year.  In other words, this deranged writer wanted more pumpkin desserts.  This was unacceptable.  Someone needs to set those nasty gourds straight.  I realized I was just the woman to do it.
So, with no further ado, I present…

An Open Letter to Pumpkin Flavored Seasonal Treats (My Version)

Dear Seasonal Pumpkin Desserts,

I’m all for local and seasonal eating.  I’m as politically correct as the next tree-hugging, liberal cook.  I understand that squash is in abundance in the coming months.  I’m all for judicious use of gourds, even though I can’t stand the taste and texture of most of them (zucchini and yellow squash aren’t bad if prepared correctly and spaghetti squash is kind of tolerable drowned in marinara and mozzarella).  I just want to know if it’s possible for you to back off just a bit.  Do pumpkin desserts have to dominate the months of September, October, and November?  

Bellvale Creamery, which is in my opinion the best ice cream in the world, has a delectable ice cream flavor called Black Dirt Blast.  It is a dark chocolate ice cream, lightly tinged with coffee and filled with cake crunchies and toffee bits.  It ranks up there with me as one of the Top 10 All-Time Best Ice Cream flavors.  Last week, Bellvale Creamery announced on its Facebook page that the last tub of Black Dirt Blast has gone and rather than make more, they are trotting out the new tubs of pumpkin ice cream.   Yes, the best ice cream in the world is now being replaced by your vile squashiness.  To me this is a waste of cream and sugar.

I went to my local farmer’s market one morning and one of the vendors was selling some lovely muffins.  I noted that he was advertising gluten-free muffins. It would have been a nice thing to do for my husband to take a muffin back to him.  I asked the vendor what kind of gluten-free muffins he offered.  “Pumpkin,” he told me.  Did he have a banana-nut muffin that was gluten-free?  Did he have a chocolate chip muffin that was gluten free?  Did he have an apple spice muffin that was gluten free?  No!  All I could get from this man was pumpkin muffins. 
There is a bed and breakfast just down the road from the stable where my horses live.  Kevin and I stay there often because it’s convenient when we don’t want to repeatedly make the 70-mile drive on weekends.  Breakfast always includes some kind of muffin or sweet bread.  One of the most common weekends to stay there is during Kevin’s October birthday.  We went to breakfast one birthday weekend morning with great anticipation, seeing a slice of sweet bread on our plates.  Then we took a bite.  What did we realize we were eating?  Pumpkin bread!  So much for looking forward to breakfast!

Then there are the food blogs.  Oh pumpkin desserts, why must you dominate the food blogs?  I read so many food blogs for their delicious dessert porn.  I get half of my dessert recipes from food blogs these days.  In the fall months it seems you must be in the dessert blogs almost daily.  What hypnotic hold do you have over food bloggers?  How do you manage to seduce bloggers into making sure you appear constantly in so many blogs?  My own food blog defies you, pumpkin desserts.  Chocolate desserts will always dominate, and if I must give a nod to the season, it’s the tasty apples all the way. 

On the subject of defiance, pumpkin pie, you have no place at my Thanksgiving table.  For Thanksgiving every year I make a delicious chocolate cream pie made with three kinds of chocolate and topped with coffee whipped cream.  If there is a pumpkin pie at the table, it’s not because I put it there.  Let me tell you something else, pumpkin pie, if you do show up at the table, my chocolate pie is eaten much faster than you are with your lead-weight consistency and sickly sweetness.
What’s the deal with pumpkin coffee while we’re at it?  It’s weird how even die-hard coffee lovers, who hate having their precious bitter brew defiled by other flavors, can’t get enough of artificial squash flavor in their coffee.  I suppose it’s not really about the pumpkin, but about the associated flavors of pumpkin pie.  Pumpkin pie is a fall dessert and we associate the related spices with fall as well.  Pumpkin desserts, you have us all hoodwinked.  We could all save a little money by putting cinnamon, nutmeg, ground ginger, and ground allspice in the coffee filter at home, add some hot milk, and have a pretty similar experience without the artificial flavors.

Is it really about you, pumpkin desserts, or is it about what you represent?  Pumpkin desserts seem to be just part of that experience people demand from those overhyped halcyon days of autumn.  Pumpkin desserts are as much a part of the season as leaf peeping, apple picking, and obsessively decorating for Halloween.  

Well, pumpkin desserts, I am on to you.  I am going to expose you for the fraud that you are.  I know your dirty little secret.  You are not even made with pumpkin most of the time.  I know there are a few daring bakers out there who will occasionally gut and roast a pumpkin for the satisfaction of doing it from scratch, but even the best bakers out there regularly use canned pumpkin.  Here is the ugly truth.  Canned pumpkin isn’t even pumpkin.  It’s a different kind of squash altogether.  While bakers across the country are feeling the need to celebrate the fruits of the season by pulling a can of pumpkin off the shelf and making their cakes and cookies and breads out of pumpkin, they’re not using pumpkin at all.  They’re using a can of squash that they can buy all year long.  Pumpkin desserts, you are a bit fat seasonal hoax!  

Why now that I think of it, you are fraudulent in other ways.  Fitness gurus love to talk about how healthful and nutritious you are.  People feel they can eat all the pumpkin desserts they want because pumpkin is good for you.  Sure you are made out of "pumpkin", but you are also filled with butter, white flour, and sugar and often topped with whipped cream (or worse, Cool Whip).  You aren't so good for us.  Maybe it's not the nutritious pumpkin people crave, but the sugar and butter and the fat involved, along with those seasonal spices.

So how about you take a step back and allow some other desserts to take up space on the bakery shelves?  How about you take a backseat to better pies?  How about you admit you're just made of squash?  I know you will never go away entirely, but you can at least make some room for other desserts and be humble enough to realize not everyone adores you.



Sue said...

I'm all for opening up the world of desserts to other wonderful ingredients besides pumpkin, but I gotta have me some pumpkin too. I prefer an inclusive approach to holiday baking, except if there's any
mincemeat involved. THAT I can't stand.

The Duo Dishes said...

If canned pumpkin isn't pumpkin, what is it?! We've been bamboozled!!!!!

There are no doubt thousands of other people who feel the same way you do about pumpkin. You are not alone. :)

bellini said...

Your too funny my friend. But I cannot be swayed, I love pumpkin!!!!

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

Sue - I didn't request that pumpkin go away altogether. I just asked it to make room for other desserts. I want options other than pumpkin!

I'm no fan of mincemeat either. My grandfather was the only person in the family who liked it. We always had a mince pie at holidays for him, although I don't remember anyone else eating it. I'm not sorry to see it go.

DD Guys - I forgot the name of the squash, but if you look at the lable on the can, it will actually tell you. It's another organe-fleshed squash. Libby's claims it's another pumpkin variety, but botanists disagree.

I know I'm not alone, but it feels that way. At least my husband doesn't like pumpkin as well.

Val - Well, that's what makes horse races! :-D

Blond Duck said...

Laughing so hard I snorted water.

Blond Duck said...

I like sweet potato desserts! And apple is always my have!