Actually, Cooking with Pumpkins Is Horrible

I will not wrestle with orange mulch for your dumb autumnal recipes.
Actually, Cooking with Pumpkins Is Horrible

One ambitious Halloween a few years back, I decided that the time had come to bake a pumpkin pie. The darkness was setting in; every part of my body felt perpetually cold and/or depressed; and the idea of staying in and making a seasonal, wholesome dessert seemed Cosy™. Pumpkins were everywhere in the supermarket. How hard could it be?

What ensued in my kitchen that Wednesday evening was hours of sweaty, messy labour. I became engaged in a battle of wits with a fruit that was determined (I was sure) to end me, my loved ones, and any future cooking ambitions I ever held. In the end, I had to admit defeat. The pumpkin had bettered me, as I stood, shaken and tired at the end of a long, long night, covered in orange entrails.

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“It's often assumed that cooking pumpkin will keep you in the kitchen for quite a while,” the intro to a recipe on BBC food reads. “This isn't always the case as our speedy squash favourites prove.”

Much like the argument that porridge is “a tasty breakfast” and batch-cooking soup every week is a “thing,” this statement is a lie. When it comes to cooking, pumpkins are a high-tier effort fruit. Not fun. Not easy. Not quick. Despite this, we just can’t seem to shake the subordinate gourd. Last year, the UK spent £10 million on pumpkins during Halloween. Every year, we cart one home for a Halloween party, despite jack-o-lanterns clearly being for kids, and promise ourselves we’ll make something delicious. A spicy, winter soup, perhaps? Or a delicious pie?

Turning a raw pumpkin into something vaguely edible is only the beginning of your problems. Firstly, you have to get the bloody thing home, which is Extremely Annoying. Once you’ve eschewed all your actual, useful shopping for pumpkin space and lugged it into your kitchen, you’ve got to cut into its heavy-duty skin to access the innards. A saw might suffice. Then, for hours, you will scoop at the orange mulch, desperately trying to detach it from the hard outer flesh. Please, you will cry, to the pumpkin Gods, who will not listen. I just wanted to make a soup. Half way through removing the seeds, you realise you actually want to keep them because—to quote my sister in an actual text I received, unprompted, while writing this—“keep the insides, seeds are super tasty if you roast them!” Thirty minutes on, arm aching from the awkward scooping, you have only completed stage one.

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And then, there’s more! Many pumpkin recipes will have the audacity to ask you to peel the thing. This is physically impossible, due to the curve of the pumpkin, thus requiring you to cut the fruit up into slices, before holding each one individually and peeling it. During this step, you must sacrifice a finger to the God of Halloween (the devil).

Finally, after slicing and peeling the pumpkin, you can cut it up. You’re done.

JK, no you’re not, it’s raw, you IDIOT! You can’t even eat it like that! In tiny raw cubes! I suppose if you’re a huge fan of burns or waiting around for things to cool, you could also roast the pumpkin with the skin on, and then try to remove it. Either way, now you must do all the other stuff that needs doing when you are dumb enough to try and cook a pumpkin—like roasting and flavouring and blending and putting in a pie crust and weeping.

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The author argues with her family about pumpkins.

Even when this ordeal is over, there’s the moral obligation to do something useful with those seeds. Look at them, staring up at you, sad and uprooted. Every foodie Instagrammer and mum with a cooking blog called “BetsyCooks.com” is baiting you to cover them in paprika, roast them, and eat them as a light, healthy snack. To that I say: fuck off.

Look, the popularity of carving pumpkins dates back to the 19th century Irish Halloween tradition of hollowing out root vegetables (usually a turnip), and turning them into lanterns. When Irish immigrants brought the tradition to the US, the pumpkin just so happened to be the most widely available vegetable. No one said anything about bloody eating them. Americans only cook with them because their form of hypercapitalism has given them pumpkin puree in cans: a spiced and sweetened mush that most autumnal dessert recipes call for.

What's more, there are countless squash varieties—all far superior to pumpkin—and almost every pumpkin dish I research quietly suggests butternut squash as a better alternative. That’s because the butternut squash is cheaper, easier to peel, and it actually tastes half decent (yes, you heard me).

Plus, no one gives a shit about what you do with the seeds.