A former boyfriend first noticed I was getting pretty attached. Several years ago I came home to find my freezer filled with cartons he'd gotten from a Chinese restaurant and filled with pumpkin ice cream, a special flavor at the gelato place I'd been hitting almost every night. I admit I was touched, and ate it all.
Three years ago I discovered Trader's Joes Organic Canned Pumpkin. I am not much of a baker, but after a few tries I managed a decent pumpkin bread. I moved on to pumpkin muffins and pumpkin scones and pumpkin cookies with walnuts and chocolate chips. The cheerful orange cans I'd lined up in the cabinet seemed to inspire me.
I searched for more ways to eat pumpkin. A spoonful in pasta sauce, another in my morning oatmeal. I made soup. I spread it on toast. Now and then, I took it straight.
It hadn't dawned on me, that first season of the cans, that they had a limited run. And when they were gone from the store shelves, I was despondent. I made a vow: Next year, I will buy them by the case and store them.
This year, right after Labor Day, I started planning. Maybe I'd whip up breakfast bars or make more stews. I was so laser-focused the afternoon I stocked up on cans that I didn't notice all the other pumpkin treats that had cropped up. Maybe they hadn't trickled in yet. But today when I went shopping, I walked into Pumpkinpoolza.
I knew other people shared my habit. Someone had to be buying the Pumpkin Spice Lattes at Starbucks, which had never appealed to me. But I had no idea I was part of a movement.
This was exciting. Little flags on the shelves called out the pumpkin treats. I dropped Dark Chocolate Pumpkin Spice Salted Caramels and Gluten Free Pumpkin Pancake Mix and a few half-gallons of Pumpkin Ice Cream into my cart. I did skip the Pumpkin Mochi, but otherwise, I was going strong. Pumpkin Spiced Pumpkin Seeds would make a good afternoon slump buster. If my mother, the only person I know whose sweet tooth dusts mine, came over for Sunday breakfast she might like Pumpkin Kringle, a sort of Wisconsin Austria mash-up. Pumpkin waffles sounded yummy.
I smiled at the Joe's Pumpkin O's, but with no little kids around these days, I passed. As I did on the Pumpkin Bread Mix, thinking my own recipe was hard to beat and easy to make.
In retrospect, that was the beginning of the end.
A Trader Joe's employee wandered the store with a tray of samples of pumpkin soup. I had some in my cart already, but I am not a person who turns down food samples. He handed me a tiny paper cup of soup and....
"Pumpkin cornbread croutons," he replied.
I scooped one up. Only one could fit on the spoon.
The employee stood in front of me, happy expectancy on his face. He'd eyed the contents of my cart.
I shook my head. "Too much," I said. "Too sweet."
"But I do like the soup."
I stepped away, and right into a corner of the store that had been turned into an enclave of pumpkinness that nature never intended. Pumpkin Bars and Pumpkin Rolls with Pumpkin Spice Icing and Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins and Mini Pumpkin Pies and Pumpkin Spice Granola and Pumpkin Croissants. Ales and teas and coffees. A refrigerator case held more: Pumpkin Yogurt and Pumpkin Cream Cheese for the Pumpkin Bagels.
I wouldn't have believed it could happen, but I didn't reach for any of them. Did I really need another kind of pumpkin breakfast? Did I really like pumpkin tea?
It was all getting too much. I was overwhelmed. My fun little addiction, a sort of secret between me and my kitchen, and that long-gone boyfriend, was losing its charm. Pumpkin had jumped the shark. I wheeled my cart toward the checkout. A hint of sadness crept in, the way it did when someone else discovered the little jetty behind the curve where I like to sit at my favorite beach in the morning.
I'd buy the ice cream and chocolates, and a few more cans. No need to go cold turkey.
The woman in front of me was buying several containers of Honey Roasted Pumpkin Ravioli. I still love you, Trader Joe's, but no thanks.