The Onslaught of the Pumpkin (Happy Halloween!)

Trick or treat! Happy Halloween, everybody!

Tonight is the night that all the little monsters will be out prowling and mooching munchies off their respective unsuspecting neighborhoods. Well, not really unsuspecting, just slightly surprised. Mostly, I would be surprised if someone actually came to my door. I don’t know where my Catwoman costume is. Or if I can zip up the jumpsuit part.

Having been an avid participant myself back in the day, I have to say it certainly was enjoyable when someone would drop a little chocolate something in my plastic pumpkin carrier. I did not sew back in the day, and certainly didn’t know enough to make a sophisticated costume. But me and my brother knew how to say, “Trick or Treat!”

We mostly went to my grandmother’s neighborhood in Arabi, La., in St. Bernard Parish (Chalmette is next door) where Katrina left a lot of damage in 2005. I haven’t been back since I evacuated for Hurricane Ike in 2008, so I’m sure it probably looks about the same as it did the day the water receded. You were also treated to stories about Hurricane Betsy, which wreaked havoc in 1965, which people probably talked about up until Katrina. I’m guessing.

So the most sophisticated candy we ever saw was a Three Musketeers, Hershey bars with almonds, Snickers—stuff like that. Today’s Wall Street Journal article talks about the gourmet upscaling of candy in general, particularly Halloween candy.  Why? That sort of thing is for adults; gourmet anything is generally lost on kids. (Unless “Mom” is Tyler Florence or Giada de Laurentiis.)

This article explains more. Once again, the comments are hilarious:

I get so tired of these bozos tinkering with basics. Leave the candy, cakes, pies, colas, and grilled cheese sandwiches alone. The vast majority of consumers are happy with the originals and making an M&M that is flavored with mocha latte bacon crème truffle isn’t going to increase your profits.

The next comment: “Can I get that in decaf?”

Last year about this time, one of my many writer friends (I think it was K in West Texas) posted a picture from some period-piece movie or TV show with a knight holding a sword. The caption read: “Brace yourself for everything pumpkin flavored.” And she wasn’t kidding. How many things have you seen with pumpkin in it, or just flavored? You know it will be going away the day after Thanksgiving, in favor of Christmas-y flavors like peppermint chocolate, and pumpkin flavored/scented items will be half off at nearly every store in America.

About a month or so ago, I was prowling in that lovely SuperTarget down in League City on a Sunday afternoon, when I stopped by a demo desk where M&M’s for Halloween were being sampled. They tasted funny. I only ate one little cup, which only held 4 or 5 of the little things. There was no attendant, but when she came back, I asked her what was wrong with the M&M’s. She said, “they’re pumpkin flavored for Halloween.”

EEEEWWWWWW!! Might as well have been eggplant or soybeans in them. YUCK.  Never touched them again, and had I known, I wouldn’t have tossed all of them in my mouth expecting rich chocolate goodness that I became accustomed to.  (Plus a lot of those flavorings contain no pumpkin.)  They really tasted like they were sour or had gone bad.

I don’t *dislike* pumpkin, mind you, I just don’t think it works with chocolate. I mean, don’t mess with the Food of the Gawds, OK? It’s CHOCOLATE, for heaven’s sake, leave it alone and stop messing with it!

Remind me to tell you the story of M&M’s one day.  A man I know named John Forde likes to tell the story at Bootcamp and in his newsletter. It’s pretty interesting. M&M’s have had the same successful advertising slogan for a lot of years, and it works.

Of course, there’s Starbucks’s Pumpkin flavored something or other (which contains no actual pumpkin.) The other side of that house, Seattle’s Best, also has a pumpkin flavored something with ORANGE whipped cream on top. Look, just brew me a decaf, OK? Pumpkin and coffee. . .um, no. Unless you like that sort of thing. Just sounds too weird for me, and I’m adventurous about stuff like that.

Pumpkin (in any form) wasn’t something we grew up with. In fact, I only had pumpkin pie when I visited someone else’s place, or when I was an adult, I bought or made it myself. I can’t say that I have a favorite recipe for pumpkin pie, but I do have a pretty darn good pumpkin cheesecake recipe or two that I like. I think there’s a recipe for gluten free in one of my books, too. Since you can buy canned pumpkin all year around, and not just the so-called “pumpkin pie filling,”  there’s no reason to wait until the fall to enjoy some of it. Muffins, cheesecakes, whatever, you can have it all year long. It’s just that the fresh pumpkins are ripe in the fall, hence the fall connotation.

And I even have a pumpkin funny—my longtime friend P from elementary/jr. high school was once given a pumpkin for her and her sister to carve. Being little kids, they paid no attention to what they were doing, and just dumped the seeds in the backyard. About a year later, all these weird little things started growing. P’s father started asking questions, like, “What the heck is growing in my backyard?” To which P enthusiastically answered, “They’re little pumpkins, Daddy!” P was thrilled, Dad was not.

If I’m ever lucky enough to get me a rural property, I’ll have a pumpkin pickin’ for anyone who wants one. Except M, who left a mysterious Halloween pumpkin on my doorstep last year. Maybe I’ll be lucky enough to grow one the size of a Mack truck and win a prize or something. Think of it—“Winner of this year’s giant pumpkin award, the entry from the Heat Cage Kitchen!”

OK, just a dream. But you never know.

I have to admit I’ve never cooked fresh pumpkin, but I understand it’s wonderful. Can’t go wrong with it, but cooking fresh pumpkin is a long, laborious process. Maybe one day if/when I retire. <snicker>

Pumpkin can be incorporated into a number of desserts, and even non-desserts, if you’re a real fan of it. Again, I like it, but don’t love it, so I gotta have a good recipe for myself before I attempt to do anything with it.  You can experiment and tell me about it. I do know that we in Texas can buy Central Market brand frozen pumpkin tortellini in most HEB stores, but since I’m now wheat/gluten-free, I won’t be trying it unless I can figure out how to make it myself.

Oh, and sometimes vets will recommend adding pumpkin to cat food for different reasons, like getting medicine into a cat. Good luck with that! That was the fastest way to get Catmandu to run away from his food. Dogs will eat anything. . .cats, not so much, although Jezebel the step-kitty did try to much on a rice cake last night. (That was funny.)

Well, anyway, enjoy whatever kind of candy you like tonight, and remember, if they don’t come a knockin’, it’s all yours. Tomorrow, it all goes 50% off, so stock that freezer if you have regular costumed visitors.


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