October is the treasure of the year,
And all the months pay bounty to her store.
— Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906)
October is, of course, Pumpkin Month, but, as The New York Times points out, pumpkin spice flavoring has become ubiquitous: “This past year’s pumpkin-flavored products accounted for $787 million in national sales, including pumpkin spice hummus and pumpkin spice deodorant.”
Not to mention pumpkin pie spice extract all-natural peanut butter powder, pumpkin spice and apple cider Moravian-style thin cookies, gourmet fall halloween candy pumpkin cheesecake fudge, pumpkin gelato, pumpkin cheerios, pumpkin M&Ms …
And on and on and on. The list is endless.
I wasn’t at all sure a Yummly online recipe for pumpkin spice puppy chow was a real thing for dogs until I found Weruva’s pumpkin supplement, advertising itself as “a great source of healthy fiber helping to support your cat’s or dog’s digestive system.” The variety pack includes pumpkin purée, pumpkin with ginger and turmeric and pumpkin with coconut oil and flaxseeds.
For humans, there’s pumpkin spice and vanilla chai moisturizing hand cream.
A few years back at The New York Times, Frank Bruni, far from sanguine about the ubiquity of this autumnal flavoring, issued a warning: “Lock the refrigerator, bolt the cupboards and barricade the pantry. Pumpkin spice is here. And there. And everywhere.”
Of course, there is no pumpkin in pumpkin spice, but put “pumpkin” into a search at the newspaper of record and you’ll come up with 10,767 entries — from soup to corn bread to polenta to beets to vodka.
Yes, the Times go-to guy, Judge John Hodgman, issues an opinion. In a column rejecting the very idea of banana peel soup, he acknowledges that pumpkin in oatmeal “might actually be pretty good.”
Oct. 29 is National Oatmeal Day, so go ahead and give this a try.
For many, pumpkin is welded to pie. But not for Margaret Renkl, Times opinion columnist, whose new book “The Comfort of Crows: A Backyard Year,” will be out Oct. 24. She notes, “I was astonishingly old before I learned that pumpkins are food. It would never have occurred to my grandmother to put a pumpkin pie on her Thanksgiving table. In the Lower Alabama of my youth, fall celebrations meant pecan pie topped with vanilla ice cream. Pumpkins were for jack-o’-lanterns.”
In the opening of Agatha Christie’s “Hallowe’en Party,” a British dowager helping with what the hostess calls an Eleven Plus Party isn’t even sure what pumpkins are, never mind what they’re used for. She remarks that she’d seen hundreds in America “all over someone’s house.”
This pumpkin “attitude” is confirmed by “The Oxford Companion to Food” which tells us, “Few vegetables are so little understood and consequently so much undervalued in Great Britain as the pumpkin.”
In Christie, all discussion of pumpkins disappears when a 13-year-old girl is found drowned in an apple-bobbing tub. Enter Hercule Poirot. “A Haunting in Venice,” directed by and starring Kenneth Branagh, moustache and all, offers a film version of this tale.
“Recipes for Murder: 66 Dishes that Celebrate the Mysteries of Agatha Christie,” connects this tale with jack-o’-lantern deviled eggs. No need to call Poirot for this one. Just use black food coloring to draw jack-o’-lantern faces on deviled eggs.
Not as exciting as pumpkin spice Jell-O shots with Kahlúa, vodka and cream.
Pumpkin spice has been mentioned in cookbooks since the 1890s. It was introduced commercially by McCormick & Company in 1934. These days, there are dozens of companies selling versions, but nothing could be easier to make. Every source from Farmer’s Almanac to The New York Times Cooking website has pretty much the same recipe, using cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice and cloves
Me? I’m keeping it out of my hand cream and not pushing it on my cats.
Pumpkin isn’t mentioned in the Washington Post’s “9 recipes inspired by famous literary meals,” but it’s lots of fun. Be sure to look at reader comments for strong opinions.
Oct. 23, 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
Menu to be announced. Register for Thursday’s Age Well Grab & Go Meal by email or phone 802-425-6345.
Age Well Meal Pickup
Thursday, Oct. 26, 10-11 a.m.
Beef steak, barbecue sauce, Italian risotto with diced tomatoes and vegetables, Italian vegetables with black beans and berry crisp with cream.
Suggested Age Well donation of $5, but not required to receive a meal. Pay what you can, when you can. Registration required by the prior Monday.
Monday Halloween Munch
Oct. 30, 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
Baked “worms” Alfredo spaghetti, gross greens from the garden, goblins good lemonade and pumpkin surprise parfait.
Age Well meal pickup
Thursday, Nov.2, 10-11 a.m.