Halloween haunts may be chilling the autumn air, but there wasn't any booing heard during the Eighth Annual Pumpkin Challenge, my month-and-a-half mission to consume as many varieties of pumpkin edibles as possible. This year a new schedule was enacted, which bumped the Challenge earlier than previous years and unwittingly shortened it from 47 days to 45.* Even then, the delicious plague of pumpkin fever has spread so much since I began the Pumpkin Challenge that I was still able to excel at discovering the blessed food on many a romp, scoring my second highest tally ever: 46.
But things weren't always this easy. Imagine yourself in a less prosperous pumpkin time, an age before we were all the ravenous Squashasaurus Rexes we are today, devouring anything that so much as casts an orange shadow. So close your eyes, little one, and be transported to the haunting past of less than a decade ago...
Okay, my bad. It's a blog--you read with your eyes, I said to close them, blah blah blah--so please lift your eyelids once more and read the next paragraph:
Eight years ago, the absolute earliest a person could find pumpkin products was October 1. Any pumpkin inquiries made before then were met with repulsed, are-you-stupid eyes from every college student in an apron. "Of course not. It isn't October yet." But even when October came, it wasn't easy. Anything more extreme than pumpkin muffins or doughnuts were viewed as frivolity, not respectable gastronomic pursuit. The unenlightened powers-that-be (and their condescending aproned lackeys) believed pumpkin to be a novelty item meant only for carving at Halloween and eating as pie in November. But the light of change was shining through the eye holes of jack-o'-lanterns in homes across the nation: the people wanted more. An epicurean revolution was taking place in countless kitchens, internet recipes acting as leaflets of protest, spreading the cause as far as the green vines of internet freedom could stretch. And the people's voice did not die down, affecting social change and stirring pumpkin mania to the obsessive level we enjoy today.
Here's how I celebrated another year of pumpkin prosperity:
pumpkin walnut crunch bagel; pumpkin schmear (cream cheese spread); pumpkin butterscotch white chocolate walnut cookies; pumpkin doughnut; pumpkin pasta with spinach, mushrooms, hazelnuts and Parmesan; pumpkin churros; pumpkin fudge; pumpkin-apple mash; pumpkin muffin; harvest cookie with pumpkin seeds; pumpkin coffee cake; pumpkin chili; pumpkin-chocolate hot fudge; pumpkin baked French toast; pumpkin whiskey butterscotch cream puff; pumpkin-n-spice flax granola bar; vegan pumpkin chocolate chip cookie pie; pumpkin ice cream; pumpkin spice M&M's; salad with pepitas; baked pumpkin stuffed with gruyere, creme fraische, bread with lamb chorizo; pumpkin cream cheese loaf cake; curried pumpkin pizza with feta and kale; pumpkin cheesecake swirl brownies; snap-o-lantern ice cream (pumpkin with gingerbread cookie dough); pumpkin dinner rolls; lentil pumpkin salad with arugula and feta; sage and balsamic pork chops with creamy pumpkin polenta; pumpkin pie with sweetened condensed goat's milk and balsamic; pumpkin and kale risotto with pine nuts; pumpkin spice granola with pumpkin seeds; pumpkin cream cheese doissant (doughnut/croissant hybrid); pumpkin chipotle salsa; pumpkin sugar cookies with maple glaze; oatmeal pumpkin cookies with maple glaze; pumpkin cupcakes; pumpkin cheesecake croissant; chocolate chip pumpkin bread; spooky swirl frozen yogurt (Pumpkin Pie and Marshmallow twist); burger topped with fried pumpkin caramelized apple and Swiss cheese; pumpkin cheesecake with cinnamon whipped cream; pumpkin spice Raincoast Crisp; pumpkin pie bark; pumpkin pie Blizzard; pumpkin cream cheese muffin; pumpkin spice cake
Italics indicate it was homemade by me
It was a great Pumpkin Challenge this year. I feel great. Almost as great as this red panda playing with a pumpkin.
* While this year's Challenge ran from Sept. 1 to Oct. 15, previous years ran from Sept. 15 to Oct. 31. The loss of two days occurs because (1) there is no September 31 and (2) the true
second-half of September is the 16th, not the nice round number I elected to start on, the 15th. That being said, having the challenge run 45 days is its own nice round number.