Smile Politely

Pumpkins prove versatile, and only sometimes delicious

Fall is upon us, dear Readers. How do I know? There are the cliché signs: bright hues of red, yellow, and orange; chilly and crisp morning air; even my neighbor’s creepy Halloween Nativity-esque scene in the front yard.

But no, those are too obvious. The real sign that the season of autumnal harvest has arrived is the omnipresent pumpkin. Whether sitting innocently on porches or adding to the seasonal decorations at the local orthopedist’s office, those tricky members of the Cucurbita family are all but inescapable right now.

I like pumpkin, or, rather, I tolerate it well enough. In fact, I have many childhood memories of eviscerating many unfortunate specimens and of eating pumpkin pie for breakfast on the day after Thanksgiving. (What? Pumpkins are fruit!) Nevertheless, sometime between those halcyon days of devout pumpkin consumption and the present day, my romance with pumpkin has cooled significantly.

However, this is not to say that I haven’t made an attempt to get caught up in the seasonal love affair with pumpkin. In fact, I venture to say that I have made quite an effort. With food bloggers falling all over themselves to include that round, orange fruit into every last meal, I thought that I, too, would try to unlock a few of its culinary possibilities.

Pumpkin soup: Don’t bother asking me for the recipe because this wasn’t very good. In fact, it was so mediocre that I forgot to take a picture of the approximately 2384032802 servings that the recipe made. Somehow, my deft wielding of Indian spices failed me, and the end result was just orange… and very bland. Perhaps I should abandon my search for a low-calorie, creamy pumpkin soup and embrace the tastier, full-fat versions.

Pumpkin-Apple bread: This was, by far, the best of my pumpkin experiments. The bread was moist and tender, as I believe that all pureed vegetable breads should be. This could be largely due to the fact that the recipe calls for a full cup of vegetable oil, but I like to think that it was my baking prowess and gentle touch in the kitchen. Best of all, it yielded three 8×4-inch loaves that I gave away as Fall “thank you” gifts.

Diabetes-inducing Pumpkin pie latte at Espresso Royale Café: After spending a less-than-insignificant percentage of my graduate stipend on overpriced teas, I proudly handed over my completed “Free Drink” punch card and asked for the special pumpkin-flavored drink at ERC. Normally, I am dubious of “pumpkin spice” anything because it sounds gross, but I was willing to try this seasonal liquid crack that people to enjoy so much. Sadly, the drink was nauseatingly sweet and probably exceeded my daily-recommended intake of sugar, fat, calories, and holiday marketing.

Pumpkin pancakes: I gave into peer pressure on this one. Pumpkin pancakes had been cropping up all over the blog-o-sphere for weeks, and I was eager to try my hand at fiber-filled flapjacks. Unfortunately, my attempt at Mark Bittman’s recipe yielded watery, pumpkin-dominated cakes that didn’t play nicely with my maple syrup. However, when I blogged about my disappointment, I received many comments to the effect of “Pumpkin blasphemy!”, so I am not quite ready to abandon pumpkin pancakes entirely.

Pumpkin carving: Though I planned to carve some sort of elaborate work of art in this year’s pumpkin (a copy of the Mona Lisa, scaled model of the Eiffel Tower, a message written in a serif font, etc.), my friends and I settled on a tribute to our undergraduate institution, the University of Virginia. With our stylized Rotunda carving glowing brightly, I like to think that we not only displayed our Wahoo pride, but also recalled the disastrous Rotunda fire of 1895, wherein the university’s architectural gem burned to the ground.

So there you have it: three pumpkin fails and two successes. I won’t give up just yet because I’m sure that besides its thick, orange exterior, the pumpkin has many valuable secrets to reveal. And even if it ends with some unappetizing results, experimenting with pumpkin is always more fun than studying for my master’s exam.

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