The Great Pumpkin

Sometime in the past few weeks, when I wasn’t looking, fall snuck in and made itself at home.

I don’t mean in the cyclical sense. It has nothing to do with the calendar, although the autumnal equinox is certainly looming. And I’m also not speaking in terms of the weather. Here in the Lone Star State, true autumn-like weather is still probably a month away, if we’re lucky.

Texas has the same four seasons as the rest of the world, we just don’t operate on the same timeframe. Honest-to-God, weather-related fall? You know, like, with leaves turning pretty colors and a cool, brisk temperature that might necessitate a sweater, and a sudden urge for a cup of hot chocolate? That happens in Texas from November through the holiday season. Only not so much with the leaves changing. Normally our Texas summers are so hot and dry that all the leaves have begun to turn brown by late August.

Winter in Texas is January through mid-March, with a brief and balmy respite in mid-February that lulls us in to thinking spring is going to arrive early. Then we will inevitably get snow sometime in March. Extra points if it happens during Spring Break, and even more extra points if it snows on Easter Sunday. Spring actually saunters in late in March and hangs around until early in May. And then summer bullies its way in, with its relentless sunniness and sauna-like humidity, and sucks the will to live right out of us until October.

As far as I’m concerned, then, it’s still summer. Which is why I was so surprised to see fall show up so early. For this, I blame Starbucks. And my friend Carmen.

On Labor Day weekend, when I was busy frying chicken and building a watermelon grill, Starbucks rolled out their very popular Pumpkin Spice Latte. Apparently, this is a thing now. It even has its own acronym – PSL. “Have you tried our PSL?” asked the little blackboard at the drive-thru window?

No. No, I haven’t. Not because I have anything against pumpkin, mind you, but because it’s one hundred and fuck degrees outside and I don’t want anything other than a Trenta iced green tea! Unsweetened, dammit! And is there anything bigger than a Trenta??

(Don’t tell anyone about the unsweetened part, okay? Sweet tea is king in the south, and Texas is no different. Going against the grain in this way could be seen as subversive behavior, especially since I don’t like barbeque OR country music either. This third strike might get my state citizenship revoked. Which, based on the current political climate here in Texas, might not be such a bad thing. Hmmmm…)

And then, about 23 seconds after Starbucks rolled out the PSL, my friend Carmen posted a recipe on my Facebook wall, along with a note: “Kelly Greene – you can do it!” The recipe? Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting.

And they were some very sexy-looking cupcakes, for sure. I told her I’d fix them, but anything pumpkin had to wait until at least October 1st. In my heat-induced stupor, it was just way too early for pumpkin.

But in the next few days, recipes for pumpkin treats started popping up left and right. Pumpkin Pie Fudge, Pumpkin Blondies, Pumpkin Spice Cookies, Pumpkin Better than Sex Cake. Wait…what? 🙂

Everywhere I looked, there was a profusion of pumpkin. So that got me thinking about the immense encyclopedia of recipes I’d been stockpiling for the last few years in preparation for the FFDJ (Foo Fighter dream job), and how many pumpkin recipes might be in it. So I counted. And I found 13. That doesn’t include all my previously acquired recipes, or anything from the dozens of cookbooks I have. If I wanted to look through everything, I could probably fix a different pumpkin-infused recipe every day in October and not get to them all. October is looking like it could well be a veritable Pumpkinpalooza here at Casa Verde!

When did this happen, this plethora of pumpkin opportunity?

I have to wonder if pumpkin farmers are involved in some sort of massive push to get their product out to the public; some sort of shiny orange marketing blitzkrieg, in order to beat the pre-Christmas frenzy. Is the pumpkin season, or fall, if you will, being overshadowed by the rush to Christmas? That may very well be. The autumn holidays are nearly forgotten nowadays, judging by the speed with which all things Christmas start appearing on the shelves.

No joke – my hubby and I made a Costco run about a month ago, which would have made it mid-August. I was a little surprised to see a rack of children’s Halloween costumes on display already, so imagine my shock at seeing Christmas lights and decorations on the next aisle. Seriously? It was AUGUST! Are people really thinking about Christmas lights in August? And if so, why?

In retrospect, I understand why pumpkin is suddenly everywhere. It’s a defensive posture. It’s kill or be killed in the retail world, and the food world is apparently following suit. Pumpkin has to get out ahead of the curve or be left in the wake of little red and green sugar cookies with sprinkles, eggnog cakes, and loaves of cranberry bread.

The humble pumpkin. Suddenly a force to be reckoned with. Who would have ever suspected such a show of strength?

Do you suppose the Foo Fighters are fans of any or all things pumpkin? I’d like to think so. If not, I bet I can convert them. And if so, there are certainly enough options to strike their fancy. I think I’ll need to start Pumpkinpalooza a little early.  Carmen may get those cupcakes sooner than she expected.

But first, I have got to find out about that Pumpkin Better than Sex cake…

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