Coastal Commuter

In the presence of the gourd

When’s the best time of year for pumpkin ale? If you’re like I am, the answer is always the same: Never. I could explain away the quip with a follow-up about my inner beer-snob deriding the frou-frou side of craft brewing. Or I can put it in simpler terms. I hate pumpkin.

As much as I enjoy Halloween and the bounty of fall produce that makes its way to the holiday buffet table for Thanksgiving and Christmas, I just can’t abide pumpkin. Not pumpkins as carved into Jack o’ lanterns. In theory, I’m always happy to see those illuminated grins, whether wacky, weird, or wicked, because of the fun and ritual they represent. But the actual process undertaken to make a Jack o’ lantern — the initial cut, the scooping of the goop (Jack’s brains, if you will), the scent of the inner gourd — makes me kind of ill. Even when pumpkin is puréed, sweetened, and baked into a crust, I’m not a fan. If someone says, “This pumpkin pie is to die for,” they don’t realize that if I ate it, the result would be like a mortal wound to my palate.


I can’t say why I’ve always disliked the taste of pumpkin. That would be a mystery best left to geneticists. But I can attest that the distaste extends to any and all types of squash. The grainy texture alone puts me off. As much as I love spaghetti, keep spaghetti squash away from me. Zucchini? Nope. And I won’t eat it when it’s secreted in that unholy thing known as zucchini bread. To be fair, my aversion to the surreptitious folding of veggie matter into confections extends to carrots. I flatly reject carrot cake, despite being cool with the tapered roots when eaten raw, lightly seared, or wok sautéed. If you’re cooking any vegetable to a mushy consistency, I’m generally not interested. Mush is never a good thing in my book, although I do suffer through the healthful benefits of oatmeal every few mornings. Man does not live by Cheerios alone.

But I digress. Pumpkins. A few weeks back, satirical pundit John Oliver, host of HBO’s comedy news series Last Week Tonight, presented a segment featuring clips of numerous local TV news teams from across the U.S. as they each enthusiastically noted the annual return of the Pumpkin Spice Latte to the menu at Starbucks. Like it’s now considered the grand harbinger of Halloween time. Ugh. Of course, that latte abomination is not enough for Starbucks. The cafe chain also rolls out pumpkin scones, pumpkin loaf, pumpkin cream cheese muffins, and — mon dieu! — pumpkin madeleines. That doesn’t touch on items like pumpkin ice cream or pumpkin-stuffed Oreos at any supermarket. Not that I would touch them. There are so many pumpkin-flavored foods available at Trader Joe’s this month that I don’t have room to list them all. But this is as good a place as any to grudgingly mention the recently invented horror of Kellogg’s pumpkin spice-flavored Frosted Flakes. Guess what. They’re not g-r-r-reat!


Seeing all the products with their orange packaging is almost enough to make me hate the color. Then, I remember how much I love citrus of that specific hue, and I calm down. Certainly, a nice drive through Half Moon Bay this time of year can be unsettling to me, since the town happens to be the home to field after field of pumpkins. Thousands of orange globs in patch after patch may look nice from a distance; I just don’t want to get up close and personal with them. In fact, area farmers grow so many pumpkins that Half Moon Bay actually celebrates them on an annual basis. The 2018 Half Moon Bay Art and Pumpkin Festival runs from Saturday, Oct. 13 to Sunday, Oct. 14, and as you might suspect, it includes the Weigh-Off — a contest for the biggest pumpkin cultivated in the region and beyond. I assume there are food stands galore with the scent of you-know-what wafting on the breeze. Attending such an event might put me out of my gourd.

Why would a rational, worldly fellow seem so uneasy when encountering a leering Jack o’ lantern around Halloween? Or be so queasy when he encounters the rotting remnants of so many smashed ones in gutters on Nov. 1? All I can imagine is that it’s a matter of taste. When it comes to anything pumpkin, one man’s treat is this man’s trick.



Send to a Friend Print
Michael Snyder is a print and broadcast journalist who covers pop culture on "Michael Snyder's Culture Blast," via, Roku, and YouTube, and on KPFK/Pacifica Radio’s “David Feldman Show.” You can follow Michael on Twitter: @cultureblaster