Sunday, November 1, 2015

The Plump King of Pumpkins

Each year of the Pumpkin Challenge presents new challenges to overcome, from moving house to time-sucking rehearsals to nationwide canned pumpkin shortages. This year, the season was ripe with travel obligations for my job, in addition to my regular late-September travels abroad. But, with this being the Tenth(!) Annual Pumpkin Challenge (lasting Sept. 15 - Oct. 31), I've learned how to rise to a challenge. And did I ever! Suffice to say, the record number of unique pumpkin items consumed in the 57 days of the Pumpkin Challenge was 52 and this year...well, check out the list:

(1) homemade African pumpkin soup
(2) homemade carrot, jicama, apple and pumpkin seed salad (Blue Ribbon for Notable New Recipe)
(3) pumpkin pie
(4) homemade stuffed poblano with pumpkin seeds
(5) homemade chocolate chip pumpkin bread (Annual Favorite Recipe)
(6) Milk and Honey's pumpkin spice granola with pumpkin seeds (Annual Favorite Purchase)
(7) pumpkin cream cheese coffee cake
(8) Annette's pumpkin pie supreme ice cream
(9) homemade white bean and pumpkin ragout with chicken sausage
(10) Corner Bakery pumpkin pound cake
(11) Gelupo's pumpkin and cinnamon gelato
(12) Rude Health pumpkin health bar
(13) Hilary's pumpkin spice chewy granola bites
(14) Frontera guacamole with toasted pepitas
(15) Hilary's vegan pumpkin pie cookies
(16) pumpkin butter
(17) Amy's pumpkin ice cream
(18) Maine Root's pumpkin pie soda
(19) pumpkin cream cheese stuffed waffles
(20) pumpkin sorbetto
(22) homemade pumpkin swirl brownies (Annual Favorite Recipe)
(23) homemade pumpkin pasta with sausage and mushrooms (Annual Favorite Recipe)
(21) Eli's pumpkin pecan praline cheesecake
(24) Trader Joe's Pumpkin Chai Latte
(25) Do-Rite's pumpkin doughnut with cream cheese dollop and pumpkin seeds
(26) Forever Yogurt pumpkin pie froyo
(27) Mariano's pumpkin chocolate chip muffin
(28) Chobani Flips pumpkin yogurt
(29) Pumpkin Oreos
(30) homemade pumpkin seed pesto
(31) Thomas' pumpkin spice English muffins
(32) R.W. Knudsen's Pumpkin Spice sparkling apple cider (Blue Ribbon for Notable New Product)
(33) Chocolate Shoppe Ice Cream Snap-O-Lantern ice cream (Annual Favorite Purchase)
(34) Trader Joe's pumpkin soup
(35) 365's pumpkin ice cream sandwiches
(36) pumpkin ravioli
(37) Philadelphia pumpkin cream cheese
(38) pumpkin pie cream puffs
(39) BelVita pumpkin spice breakfast biscuits
(40) homemade pumpkin cheesecake ice cream
(41) & (42) Big Jones' pumpkin pancakes with pumpkin cream
(43) J.B. Deli's pumpkin bar
(44) Toni Patisserie's pumpkin macaron
(45) Toni Patisserie's pumpkin roulade
(46) Wow Bao's pumpkin bao
(47) Garrett's pumpkin spice caramel corn
(48) Dairy Queen's pumpkin pie blizzard (Annual Favorite Purchase)
(49) McDonald's pumpkin and creme pie
(50) homemade Pumpkin black bean quesadilla with pumpkin crema
(51) Molly's pumpkin cupcake (Annual Favorite Purchase)
(52) Stan's pumpkin hot chocolate 
(53) homemade Chickpea pumpkin burger
(54) Jell-O pumpkin pudding
(55) Pumpkin spice Frosted Mini-Wheats
(56) Pumpkin spice Milanos (Blue Ribbon for Notable New Dessert)
(57) Manolo's Pizza & Empanadas' pumpkin empanada

There ya have it! An average of one unique pumpkin edible per day for the entire length of the Pumpkin Challenge!

To what do I owe this success? One answer is that I checked out a library book entirely devoted to pumpkin recipes. The more obvious answer is that more businesses are jumping on the pumpkin and/or pumpkin spice bandwagon. Any chef worth his salt is trying to scheme up a new twist on the seasonal gourd, while every national chain and grocery-store brand is trying to produce the next "pumpkin spice latte." Obvious pro: pumpkin, as the Pumpkin Challenge originally sought to achieve, is in higher demand, one that has stretched pumpkin mania from late summer into winter. Hidden con: many band wagon products are pumpkin only in name, offering very little (not even the typical spices) to evoke that signature autumnal flavor.

If I were to retire the Pumpkin Challenge this year, I could do so at the top of my game, having set a new record and been witness over the past decade of exponential growth in pumpkin products. And if I am to continue the Pumpkin Challenge next year, the rules would need to be changed. While cinnamon, clove, ginger and nutmeg are a winning combination, they are pumpkin only in spirit; if the Pumpkin Challenge continues next year, I may have to limit myself to items that actually have pumpkin as an ingredient. As a lover of food, I must take a stance for quality over quantity.

But let's ditch the soapbox. This year was 57 days and 57 unique pumpkin foods. The Pumpkin Challenge has gone ten whole years, adding up to over 300 unique pumpkin foods. It is a glorious time to be a lover of the gourd of the gods! Live it up!

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