Something happens in mid-October. The foods you’ve been enjoying all summer – nay, all your life – take on an orange hue and whiff of sweet spice. It’s no coincidence: food marketers around the country embark on their insidious annual pumpkin campaign. Pumpkin pushers have never been so active as they are now. New York magazine recently called the big orange squash “the new bacon,” citing data that puts the number of pumpkin dishes in major restaurant chains at over 60, with pumpkin-flavored drink choices rising some 400% in the last five years.
What is wrong with people? Do we really have such an insatiable appetite for pumpkin? Or is it just the sheer ubiquity of it that makes us think we should probably be eating it? As that NY Mag piece points out, many of the pumpkin-laced offerings don’t even have real pumpkin in them. So, it’s not an actual pumpkin addiction that’s at play here. Pumpkin’s flavor monopoly, which stretches well into the December holiday season, is more likely accredited to peer pressure. Not only do restaurants feel the pressure to keep up with their competitors by delivering a steady stream of orange-tinted goods, but we feel the need to eat them. They just drip with seasonality, reek of wholesomeness. Oh, haven’t you tried the pumpkin? It’s simply divine! Did you know they make that in pumpkin now? How fallishly fabulous! We eat it up so much that there are annual shortages of the canned pumpkin puree needed for Thanksgiving Day pies and poor coffee chains run out of the pumpkin flavoring that goes into their special iced lattes.
Well, enjoy it while it lasts, oh great pumpkin. No empire is forever. You will eventually be replaced by the next “bacon” and it could be sooner than you think. According to CNBC, gingerbread is making a play to dethrone pumpkin, with gingerbread sundaes and shakes in the pipelines at Burger King. Eggnog is also raring to go, with frozen treats at McDonald’s and Jack in the Box already on the menu. For now, pumpkin still reigns. And these are just a few of the squash-filled monstrosities you’re likely to find:
- Pumpkin vodka
- Pumpkin Eggo waffles
- Pumpkin Pop-Tarts. Because you want your morning pumpkin options
- Pumpkin butter. Spread it on pumpkin or non-pumpkin toast for another breakfast option
- Pumpkin beer
- More pumpkin beer. (Everything from lagers to ales, porters to stouts)
- Pumpkin spiced lattes, from just about every coffee and sandwich chain that exists
- Pumpkin Philly cream cheese
- Pumpkin bagels to spread the above on
- Pringle’s Pumpkin Pie Spice chips!
- Pumpkin pancakes from IHOP
- Pumpkin moonshine
- Pumpkin pancakes from your favorite fancy brunch joint
- The Smashing Pumpkins. Seriously, did they really have to tour during pumpkin season?
- Pumpkin cocktails. (And made not only with aforementioned pumpkin vodka. Pumpkinize your favorite cocktail simply by shaking with pumpkin puree or pumpkin-flavored syrup)
- Pumpkin puree. (The original sin. You need this stuff for at least half the entries on this list. But certainly not all of them)
- Pumpkin pizza. Hey, why not?
- Pumpkin soup from Trader Joe’s
- Pumpkin bisque made with locally grown pumpkins at your favorite farm-to-table restaurant
- Pumpkin cheesecake
- Pumpkin Cheesecake Factory cheesecake
- Vintage Hermès bags in rich pumpkin. (Because who would buy a Hermès bag in a color called “orange.” Blech.)
- Pumpkin cupcakes
- Pumpkin pie. Just kidding
- Pumpkin ice cream
- Pumpkin Pinkberry
- Pumpkin gnocchi
- Spiced pumpkin bread
- Pumpkin crème brûlée
- Pumpkin burger. (Burger King just launched one – in Japan. Sorry, American pumpkin heads.)
- Pumpkin doughnuts (to go with your pumpkin spiced lattes)
And perhaps the pumpkin prize should go to Farm at The Carneros Inn in Napa, where, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, a seven-course pumpkin menu includes pumpkin blini and caviar, heirloom Jaune Gros de Paris pumpkin, cheese with pumpkin seed crackers, and pumpkin hash.
Down with pumpkin!
Long live pumpkin!
Read more about pumpkin (or don’t) on Food Republic: