Sunday, October 4, 2009

In Praise of Pumpkin

What, you might ask, could possibly be enjoyable about watching the days of summer (and, apparently, fall already) wane away to usher in the long, impenetrable months of winter (a winter that will likely be full-blown by the end of this month and won't relent 'til the Tigers are back in season)?

One word: pumpkin.

I love pumpkin. Pumpkin anything. From the Pumpkin Spice and Wild Pumpkin Lattes at yours and my favorite generic chain coffee shops to pumpkin scones, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin cupcakes, pumpkin doughnuts, and other deep-fried and sugar-soaked pumpkiny pastry treats, I love pumpkin. Pumpkin bisque? Check. Pumpkin ravioli? Check. Pumpkin risotto? Check check check. Whether it be the pumpkin pie made from scratch (i.e., Baker's Square or Big Boy) at Thanksgiving dinner or the seasonal Pumpkin Pie Blizzards at Dairy Queen, I LOVE PUMPKIN.

You know what else is good? Pumpkin beer. Yep. This short-seasoned sud is available at a number of boutique-ish beer stores, perhaps most conveniently at Trader Joe's. There are also a number of local breweries that whip up a batch of pumpkin-infused goodness around this time of year...just don't bother asking who because these places are terrible about updating their websites and don't bother calling unless the beermaker happens to be in because 9 times out of 10 the freakin' manager has no idea what the beermaker is planning, but this is a rant for another time. Back to pumpkins.

I have it on fairly good authority that Great Baraboo Brewing Company, Woodward Avenue Brewers, and maaaaaaybe Black Lotus in Clawson will have pumpkin brews, but don't word-of-God-quote me on that.

For real now, back to pumpkins.

This may be a somewhat dismal time of year. The skies are perpetually gray, the winter coats and thermal underwear come back out and the heat goes back on. Macy's sets up their Christmas decorations. (Not kidding: I saw the beginning of it yesterday.) All the outdoor summer fun ends and we spend our days huddled up indoors, hoping to ride the winter out as painlessly as possible (with as little damage as possible done to our cars, skin, and psychological states).

Okay, maybe pumpkins don't make all this misery magically vanish like so many enchanted carriages at midnight, but they do help ease the transition a bit. Going to a pumpkin patch and picking out the brightest, biggest, roundest pumpkin you can find to carve into whatever silly or scary-faced jack-o-lantern your imagination (and skill level with a dull cerrated knife) can concoct may seem juvenille, but I'll be damned if it's not something I look forward to every year. Pumpkin candles and pumpkin lotion scented with the warm, comforting smells of nutmeg, cardamom, and cinnamon. Roasted pumpkin seeds. Pumpkin-flavored cream cheese on a pumpkin bagel. Ooh, pumpkin cheesecake! (The Cheesecake Shoppe in St. Clair Shores makes a deeeee-licious one.)

Yes, all this pumpkin madness is the hallmark of my favorite (and sadly, the shortest) season of the year. Enjoy it while you can, because it doesn't last long. After that, it's on to eggnog and gingerbread! (Followed by four more grueling months of winter.) So let's raise a glass of pumpkin ale and toast the Great Pumpkin! (He only comes to those who believe.)