My favorite season is closing in on us (and by closing in, I mean temperatures here in Alabama are still in the 90’s, but I’m sure fall is coming anyyy day now). Autumn, I love you–your cool weather, your clothes, your football
players, oh, and especially your food.
I know you think you’ve been counting down to PSL-season for what feels like a lifetime, but I assure you that, as an editor for one of the largest food websites in the country, I’ve been prepping for much, much longer. We work well ahead (at least 4-6 months) creating seasonal packages and researching to spot upcoming trends before they hit, so I’m pretty sure I was celebrating Thanksgiving on July 4.
With months of researching and preparing for the fall, you’d think I would have discovered what I’m about to tell you before last week. Heck, as someone who spends the entirety of her workweek studying food, I should just innately know all of the things–right? Not so, my friends, not so.
Okay, I’ll get to the point. I found out something extremely disappointing and concerning this week that has made me rethink most everything in my life, so I’d like to share a little PSA with the class:
Pumpkin puree is not pumpkin. It’s squash.
Pumpkin puree: You know, the canned orange stuff that’s lining the supermarket walls right now? The stuff you use to make all your favorite fall desserts that’s labeled “100% pumpkin”?! Yes, well, it’s actually made from 100% not pumpkin. The mix is made from a variety of winter squash (think butternut, Golden Delicious, Hubbard, and more). Libby’s, the brand that produces about 85% of the country’s canned “pumpkin” filling, has actually developed a certain variety of squash that they grow, package, and distribute to supermarkets across the country–all the while fooling innocent, trusting consumers into believing they’re eating a pumpkin.
As it turns out, pumpkins can be fairly stringy and watery; certain varieties of winter squash make a richer, sweeter puree that works way better for packing the now-ambiguous flavor we all love into our favorite fall dishes. Additionally, the USDA is fairly lenient with gourd terminology in general, which is why it’s perfectly legal to label a food product as “pumpkin” when, in reality, it’s made from a different variety of squash. So it’s all good now that there’s an explanation, right? NO. It’s not.
What I’m telling you is, you’ve basically been eating butternut squash pie, squash bread, and drinking SQUASH FREAKING SPICE LATTES this entire time.
Here’s my thing: When all the gourd execs sat around the boardroom table and came to the conclusion that, “Dang, pumpkin just isn’t going to work,” why didn’t they just come right out with it and announce, “SQUASH IS THE NEW PUMPKIN!” just like when Neiman Marcus told us gingham was the new stripe?! (P.S. It wasn’t. That was also a lie, and I looked like I was wearing a tablecloth.) This is my hangup on the whole issue. Not that all of my favorite pumpkin things suddenly taste gross now that I know what they’re really made of–but I’m a trusting girl, and I was deceived. Is nothing sacred? If it’s no big deal to call a blend of squashes “pumpkin,” who’s to say anything is what it says it is? That’s something for you to chew on.
With that being said, if you want to discuss this further, you can find me brooding over marketing deception and my skewed perception of reality with a squash latte.