“The Pilgrims are new to this country,” the chief in his wisdom said, “and so we should give them the gift of pumpkins.”
Thus began the most successful con in America’s history, one that haunts American autumns and Thanksgiving feasts to this day. I can’t say I blame the Native Americans for wanting to pawn the pumpkin off on unsuspecting newcomers. I can’t even really blame the Pilgrims for eating it. After being crammed on a ship with a handful of the same people for months, I am sure they were eager to make any new friends they could find. We all do weird things to make new friends.They were also starving, and knowing how cranky I get when I am hungry I can’t fault them for accepting the strange new vegetable that you have to attack with a knife and then laboriously scoop out handfuls of a substance which somehow manages to be both grainy and mushy at the same time. Besides, these people were thrifty, and I am sure it was probably a Scotswoman who first had the idea to make the uneatable stuff into pies. My grandmother was one of a long line of Scotswomen and I’ve never met a woman more thrifty when it came to making food last than her.
But I do blame the Pilgrims for making pumpkin pie into a tradition that stretched into centuries and is now a Thing. Calf’s foot jelly was also a Thing, and we successfully banished that oddity from the American experience. Yet pumpkin continues to linger. We waste perfectly good and expensive spices in order to render it palatable in the pies, cakes, rolls, pastries, donuts, and extremely doubtful salads and soups. And now, the pumpkin spice latte.
I am not sure who first thought that it would be a good idea to pollute perfectly good espresso with the unwanted flavors of pumpkin. I only hope that they burn in hell for a very long time. At the end of every August, Starbucks begins their pumpkin spice campaign, brainwashing the masses into thinking that of course they love pumpkin spice lattes and have been counting down the days until they could once again taste them. I know this because last year I fell for it and tried one. I like to try new things when I have a reasonable expectation of liking them, and remembering my mom’s pumpkin chiffon pie, which contains so little pumpkin we might as well call it autumnal spice chiffon pie, I fell for the clever advertising which had pictures of girls with perfect curls, scarves tied just so, and their precious Starbucks cups of pumpkin spice. I wanted to be a girl with perfect curls and cute scarves too.
Bolstered by this subliminal message, I marched into Starbucks one Saturday morning and ordered a venti pumpkin spice latte with extra whipped cream. I don’t do things halfway. I took a sip. Something was wrong. I took another. “This is the worst latte I’ve ever had,” I wailed at my friend who was dutifully guzzling her own pumpkin spice latte down. She looked equal parts shocked and horrified.
And then I realized that she too, had been brainwashed. You are probably brainwashed, too. The pumpkin conspiracy of 1621 was the most successful coup ever undertaken. But I am a 21st century girl living in a first world country, and I refuse to buy into the lie that oversized gourds are good, when I know for a fact that they are an abomination to mankind.