Spookiness abounds in October. Perhaps Starbucks knew this, and thought they would play the spookiest trick of all by putting a vegetable in their coffee. Hello, Pumpkin Spice Latte.
My initial gut reaction to this drink? Barf.
But eventually I came around. Somewhere, deep within the confines of my praline-crusted soul, I found the courage to taste the Pumpkin Spice Latte. My life has never been the same. Neither has my heart rate.
Most of the time, I prefer to keep my vegetables separate from my coffee. Now is not that time. You can keep your kale cappuccino, but give me my Pumpkin Spice Latte hot, frozen, iced or regurgitated into the hollowed-out shell of a pumpkin.
Actually, don’t even offer me a pumpkin-spice drink unless it’s served in a pumpkin.
Why? Fall is here. Winter is coming. Pretty soon, you will be shivering next to a dessicated Christmas tree sipping your peppermint mocha and dreaming of the days when, in your puffy vest and flannel, you gazed at the decorative gourds perched atop your windowsill, drinking deep draughts of your Pumpkin Spice Latte, tongue-burns be damned. Carpe Pumpkin Spice Latte, as the saying goes.
But while you’re at it, you should carpe the squash, too. It is the humble squash that we can thank for pumpkins (sisters in the plant family cucurbitaceae), pumpkin spice and those little Brach’s Mellowcreme pumpkin candies.
Did you know there’s a full serving of vegetables in each of those Brach’s mellowcreme pumpkins?
There’s not. But if you eat enough of them you’ll be guilted into eating only vegetables for the rest of the day. Anywho, since it’s fall, you might as well bake up a squash.
You might be thinking: Squash is orange, nasty and too sweet for a veg, and why would I want to bake up a whole squash when I could just carve a face in and let it rot on my front stoop?
Yes, well, the great thing about squash is that—like carving a face in it— the squash can easily be masked. It’s magic, really.
If meal-masking a squash is magic, then my mother is a magician. At some point, growing up, I started to notice our weekly pot of white bean minestrone becoming steadily thicker, sweeter, and distinctly more orange in color. I asked my mother about the soups’ changing identities. Squash, of course, was the culprit.
I remember harvesting a record number of massive squashes of the boston marrow variety that year, so it didn’t come as a surprise when creative avenues for the excess squash were sought after by my family and I in our farmhouse kitchen.
Our white bean minestrone wasn’t the only dish this ubiquitous cucurbit snuck into. That year, we blended squash into our chili, adding sweetness to balance out the gut-bombing tendencies of the characteristic kidney beans and ground beef. We spread the orange paste inside cheese-covered black-bean burritos, and ate them slathered in sour cream and that fall’s canned salsa. We stuffed its cavities with the apples we found in our chicken yard, the neighbor’s sage-seasoned sausage, and some crusty chunks of that week’s bread loaf. I loved them all.
Thank you, Starbucks for cafe blasphemy. Thank you, squash, for your humility in the face of us carving you up. Thank you, parents, for trailblazing squash uses. God save the squash.