Until the dawn of the new millennium all things pumpkin were confined to Halloween and Thanksgiving. The pumpkin was good for but a few things. You carved them for jack-o-lanterns, shoved a candle in them and put them on your stoop on Halloween until they rotted away. Or you might save the meat for a pumpkin pie or roasted seeds. Unlikely. No one has used the meat from a carved pumpkin to make a pie since the invention of the tin can. That all changed in 2003 when Starbucks decided to add some spice (sorry for the bad pun) to their holiday line-up of flavors with their now famous pumpkin spice latte. They were shortly followed by their competitor Dunkin Donuts who introduced the pumpkin spice coffee.
In 2017 the season of the pumpkin begins in mid-September and extends until Christmas. And quite a season it has become. Pumpkin growers across America should be kneeling at the altar of franchises like Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts. We are living in a present-day pumpkin explosion. Any store you enter provides a virtual pumpkin assault. There are pumpkin products in all varieties; cereals, snack bars, whipped cream, soap, air fresheners, spaghetti sauce and candles. You name it and it is offered in pumpkin flavor or scent.
The assault is on!
There are so many pumpkin products one could envision a New England remake of Forrest Gump with Bubba (now named Darryl) sharing his dream of opening a pumpkin farm and expounding on pumpkin possibilities. “Pumpkin waffles, pumpkin deodorant, pumpkin milk, pumpkin burgers, pumpkin footwear, pumpkin toilet cleaner…”
Wasn’t a nice pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving enough? It was something to look forward to. Now the pie is anticlimactic. When Thanksgiving finally rolls around you have overdosed on pumpkin. You are in need of pumpkin rehab. When does enough become too much? Probably when the scale on pumpkin products begins to bend back toward unsold items. When the pumpkin Cheerios are still sitting on the shelf in January, and it is apparent that people have drawn the line and refuse to eat their spaghetti with pumpkin sauce, maybe the craze will have hit a wall and we can get a bit closer to normal – whatever that is.
It is an interesting phenomenon of marketing that a popular item quickly blossoms into an obsession that leads to a tsunami of products. We have seen it with the pomegranate. Until a few years ago no red-blooded American had even heard of a pomegranate. Maybe because of its exotic nature the pomegranate is no pumpkin. They lack the cultural connection. But they are closing fast. They just need a season. Maybe summer could be the pomegranate season. Pomegranate lattes? Pomegranate Coolattas? I can see it now. Pomegranate chips, pomegranate spaghetti sauce, pomegranate barbecue sauce. On second thought – let’s not encourage them.