As soon as there is a crunch underfoot of dry leaves I start to look for pumpkin pie on store shelves, but they simply do not appear before late October. However, once they arrive, all the world becomes a pumpkinscape. The fashionably expensive coffee shop sells a pumpkin latte, which is quite tasty, then the fast food version of it entered the market, but isn’t quite the same. In the cereal aisle I’ve discovered a half dozen of the regular brands now offer pumpkin flavored varieties which, like the pies, will no doubt disappear once Thanksgiving is finished and the appetite has been whetted for more, shall be thwarted.
It seems like ancient history when I baked my own pumpkin pies, pumpkin bread, muffins and such. I remember taking a small pumpkin and drawing a jack lantern face on it until after Halloween. Then I would take the seeds out and spread them on a cookie sheet to put into a 200 degree oven until they were roasted. After removing all of the stringy stuff from inside the squash, I cut it up and boiled the pieces till they were soft. Then peel the skin away and mash the fruit and separate into two cup containers and either freeze all of them or keep one out for baking and the others went into the freezer for future use. On a television cooking show I saw someone simply cut the pumpkin in half after taking the innards out and baking it in the oven.
My respect for the pumpkin as food always kept me from finding smashed pumpkins on the streets after Halloween funny, it was just so much waste. However, I did have to laugh the first time I saw on television, the farmers entertaining themselves by punkin chunkin’, which was the catapulting of remaining pumpkins in a field to see who could get one tossed the furthest from the starting point.
I remember seeing a 625 pound pumpkin from Circleville, Ohio win the prize for largest pumpkin in a contest at the annual pumpkin festival in Half Moon Bay, California in about 1983, and today I heard on television that the world record has been smashed by a grower in Rhode Island for a 2,600 pumpkin.