We’re now squarely in the midst of the Pumpkin Season. There are pumpkins on doorsteps. Pumpkin lattes at your local coffee house. Pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, and pumpkin muffins with icing at the bakery, and pumpkin ice cream on the menus at restaurants. And, as of yesterday, even “pumpkin spice” coffee creamer at the fifth-floor coffee station at our firm.

There’s no doubt that the humble pumpkin has made huge inroads into every nook and cranny of our current foodie culture.  But the sad reality is, it’s not really pumpkin that people are craving.  In fact, the fleshy part of the pumpkin — the part that remains after you scrape out the seeds and the yucky, slimy innards — has virtually no taste.  Any good pumpkin pie recipe will have you bake the scraped-out pumpkin, them remove the flesh from the pumpkin skin and puree it, and then add the flavoring that we really associate with a good piece of pumpkin pie.  In effect, the pumpkin just provides the ballast for the pie, whereas the delectable taste comes from the added spices: cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and often allspice.

That’s the true fate of the humble pumpkin.  It’s on every menu, sure, but in reality it’s become a kind of food Trojan Horse that serves as a cover for consumption of yet more sugars and spices.

Of course, that doesn’t make it any less mandatory to have a slice of pumpkin pie come Thanksgiving.