The woman behind the counter at Williams Sonoma is smiling as broadly and sweetly as a jack o’ lantern with a mouthful of candy corn. Assaulted by the distinctive combination of cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg, my nose twitches. I feel a sneeze of September coming on. To my left, an expansive table is decked out in autumnal splendor; harvest blooms and botanical gourds sprawl across linens, soup tureens and mugs destined for hot cider. Salad plates, conveniently sold in sets of four, compete with over-sized dinner plates edged in meandering vines. Adjacent to the register, a serving dish fashioned out of restaurant quality French porcelain is garnering interest. Customers are flocking to the Apilco-brand platter dotted with samples. I stand back, allowing a group of four full access to the accordion pleated white paper cups. Several of the hungrier shoppers double-fist the miniscule samples of pumpkin quick bread. Having sported a green Williams Sonoma apron in a Philadelphia outpost for several years, as a former “Casual Employee,” I consider myself well versed in their autumn line-up. However, the closer I scrutinize the offerings, the more evident it becomes that yesterday’s pumpkin bread has received a makeover. She is positively gourdeous.
I am blindsided by a display of not one, but six versions of the famous Pumpkin Quick bread; traditional, spiced pecan pumpkin, pumpkin caramel, pumpkin chocolate chunk, and pumpkin chocolate swirl. There’s also a gluten free version of something called pumpkin cheesecake quick bread mix. Not only are the quick breads available solo, you can now purchase them paired with a jar of traditional pumpkin butter, pecan pumpkin butter, or caramel pumpkin butter. In order to schmear or slab your butter of choice on your pumpkin-y bread, you may add to your cart your very own set of ivory handled butter spreaders. I must have been living under a rock for the past twenty years.
“Pumpkin quick bread?” the salesperson proffers with enthusiasm. I hold up both hands in a panic, shaking my head in the negative. A manager sidles up to me gushing, “Don’t you just love fall? Have you tried our Spiced Pumpkin Seed Brittle Bites?” the retailer inquires, barely coming up for air. I cannot for the life of me understand what she’s talking about. A brittle pumpkin bite sounds like something that might require a tetanus shot. “And don’t miss our new autumn tabletop collection…” she calls after me as I backstroke towards the exit. Temporarily blinded by enamel cookware in blazing shades of orange, I whack my elbow on a heavy lidded cast iron coquette shaped like a Cinderella pumpkin.
Once again, I decline an offer of Spiced Pumpkin Seed Brittle Bites. Standing at the intersection of pumpkin mole and pumpkin pie spice macarons, I vacillate between dizziness and nausea. Realizing I have forgotten what brought me here in the first place, my seersucker Topsiders start edging towards the mall entrance, but not before the designated “Greeter” asks me if I’d like to sample the Pumpkin Gooey Bar Mix. I would not. The word ‘Medic!’ is about to tumble out of my mouth. Whatever it was that I thought I needed will have to wait until January when the quick breads return to routine citrus flavors, sans spice. What is our fascination, no, our obsession with pumpkin? Remember the time we were obsessed with oat bran, carob, and kiwis, or am I the only one?
On a much smaller scale, we have a fair share of pumpkin enablers at the bakery intent on jumpstarting the season. A certain pie baker refuses to unearth the number ten cans of pumpkin before absolutely necessary. I am as unwilling to retire my white capris to the rear of my closet as I am to open the pumpkin chocolate chip quick bread floodgates. “Let them wait until October 1st,” I snarl, much to the chagrin of the retail public and a few of the eager bakers waiting for loaf pan direction. “It’s not even Labor Day!” I continue, exasperated with both the end of summer and the onslaught of a holiday-riddled season. There seems to be something inherently wrong with launching pumpkin anything when there are still peaches in the building. Disgruntled and dismayed, I head for home where my spices live singular lives in the kitchen cabinet, and orange is limited to a generous curl of peel in an icy Aperol Spritz. I will embrace autumn when the time is right, roughly September 23rd, the official first day of fall. Until then, you can spot me wearing white shoes and white pants and possibly seersucker because under the rock where I live, it’s still summer.
Professional Pie-isms & Seasonal Sarcasm