I Hate Pumpkin, Charlie Brown

Once we’re finished with today’s Halloween fun—after we’ve eaten our fill of mini Twix bars and Kit Kats, and scraped the final flakes of fake blood off our faces—it’s time to open the floodgates on everything Christmas and the stories of Grinches, Scrooges, and the humbugs with tiny, coal-black hearts who frown cartoonishly on cheery holiday festivities.

But I bet you didn’t know there’s a grinch who brings her own black cloud of doom to some of the most beloved traditions of Thanksgiving and autumn baking—yeah, though as you might have guessed, it’s me. Because I don’t like pumpkin pie.

Mostly it’s the texture—thick and creepily smooth, like a phlegmatic flan—but it’s also the bland sweetness of the squash. Yes, despite my well-publicized love of all things orange, none of the squash family really does it for me. Not butternut, not acorn, and not even Pumpkin shortbread?… OK, maybe I’ll consider that one.

But cloves, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, star anise, vanilla beans—I say yes to all those things. They’re the haunting flavors of gingerbread, of mulled cider, of cranberry chutney. When combined, they’re the olfactory equivalent of a cable-knit sweater, and yet I balk when the fleshy, slick pabulum of puréed pumpkin comes into the picture.

Only one thing could make my pumpkin-hating grinchy heart grow three sizes: Maine Root Pumpkin Pie Soda. And you know why I love it? Because it doesn’t taste like pumpkin.

It just tastes like fall. Though it’s a (naturally) sugary soda, there’s a savory element that hangs around the forefront, threatening to overtake the mix and let its brooding, spicy flavors run wild. Nutmeg, cloves, and allspice hijack what looks like a plain orange drink with their earthy perfume—your brain thinks Sunkist, but your tongue says “wait… is that chai?” By taking that baby-food squash flesh out of the equation, it’s easier to note the dark and dashing spice notes that telegraph the season so well. It’s enough to make a good grinch go bad.

Granted, this shouldn’t be this big of a revelation. Maine Root’s ginger beer and root beer have been at the top of my very tiny “sodas I drink” list for the past few years, so there’s a precedent and a predisposition to pulling this particular pumpkin-branded potion off the shelf.

I just viewed it as more of a $5.99 experiment. I didn’t expect to like it. What’s next? Making pumpkin cannoli? Executing the perfect pumpkin soufflé? Don’t hold your breath. But you might get a pumpkin curry or two out of the deal after this.

(One more Grinchy thought for the day: does anyone else think that It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown is one of the most depressing stories? Poor Linus! Give me the Charlie Brown Christmas Special and its Vince Guaraldi soundtrack any day.)

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  1. I like pumpkin pie and pumpkin bread…but I most enjoy looking at a really huge pumpkin, and all the colors they seem to grow in. Also, that pumpkin soda looks … interesting.

  2. Oh Casey, this is just crazypants. I love pumpkin EVERYTHING. In fact, I started talking pumpkin dishes with the fam when we were out to dinner last night, at Matthew’s in Clifton. They had a pumpkin gelato that was just divine.

    I can’t wait to try this pumpkin fudge recipe I have… and I lugged my food processor out of storage yesterday so I can make my favorite pumpkin-butternut squash soup. Man… I think food and Christmas might be the only things I love about winter.

  3. I really want to try that soda…

    I’ve found that, although too much squash turns me off, I love it in pasta or risotto with some heat (red pepper flakes) and salt (prosciutto) and herbiness (sage or thyme) to play off of the sweetness and softness of the squash. That’s not a revelation, I know. But I had to speak up for the squash.

    Also, pumpkin chocolate chip cookies are fab.

  4. I’ll up the ante. I feel the same way about butternut squash! The flavor is just too weirdly consistent. It’s like baby food. However, I do like pumpkin or “gagootz” the way my grandmother made it which was to sautee it in olive oil and a ton of Calabrese red pepper. Oh, and pumpkin cannoli are just wrong.

    1. Yeah, like I said, it’s all squashes I have an aversion to – butternut, acorn, pumpkin, kabocha… and I’m also not a fan of mashed sweet potatoes for the same textural/flavor issues. I have tried so many times to love them. I mean, come on, they’re ORANGE!

      For those of you interested in acquiring some Maine Root soda, I found mine at Whole Foods – or there are six bottles left in my fridge, if anyone wants to come over.

  5. I don’t like pumpkin pie EITHER but I don’t mind other pumpkin things — I just made a glorious pumpkin soup that basically doesn’t taste like pumpkin (it just makes such a nice creamy base for other flavors, in this case walnuts and rosemary), and I have a pumpkin chocolate chip cookie recipe that’s divine, esp with the new dark chocolate chips Nestle is making. Mmm. It has its place… but cold pumpkin pie? Freaky.

  6. We buy every kind of squash [Hokkaido, Buttercup, Delicata, Carnival, Kabocha,Turk’s Turban, Acorn, Rouge Vif D’Etampes, Sweet lighting, and Butternut] in the fall and eat them all for months. They keep very well and they are delicious with just some maple syrup and butter.

  7. I don’t like pumpkin pie either. Thought it was a cultural thing. Love roasted pumpkin, pumpkin pot stickers, pumpkin soup, and pumpkin risotto though.

  8. Can’t imagine a world without squash! Butternut cubes bathed in olive oil & garam masala spice. Yum!

    1. No offense to anyone’s mother, but if it looks like pumpkin pie and tastes like pumpkin pie, you can just go ahead and eat my allotted slice. :)

  9. I am looking forward to trying this. Actually, to having my son try it since I can’t drink any soda due to the acidity in them. It sounds great.

  10. I don’t like pumpkin pie, either. In fact, I don’t like the taste at all. I once, mistakenly, got served a pumpkin latte at Starbucks instead of my usual soy latte, and just one sip sent my stomach into panic mode for the entire day!

  11. I don’t mind pumpkin, though realize that I love the word pumpkin and the way they look better than things actually made with pumpkin. On Halloween night while out walking, we crashed a porch party where they were serving home-made pumpkin beer. Interesting stuff!

  12. LOL I thought I was the only one who can’t stand pumpkin pie. It is my far the most inferior of the pies and yet I find myself stuck with a piece no matter how much I refuse every Thanksgiving. I eat the crust and hope I can pan the rest off on someone. Ick!

  13. Casey, I think it’s about the consistency of pumpkin. Although I do love pumpkin pie, I can’t even get near jello. I don’t eat things that wiggle and shimmer at you. Big UGH!

    1. Judy, now I have this slightly obscene image of dancing Jell-O stuck in my head! I love that all these pumpkin pie-averse people are coming out of the woodwork. I thought I was the only one!

  14. Ha! Growing up we NEVER had pumpkin pie, you would have loved it. I didn’t even have pumpkin pie ’til I went away to college and at one of those big Thanksgiving dinners they served pumpkin pie by the thousands. I discovered I love even lame pumpkin pie. Great description: “the olfactory equivalent of a cable-knit sweater”

  15. My mom always baked her pumpkin pies New England Style (Vermont) from scratch using the browner, flatter pumpkin known as the “Cheese Pumpkin”.
    If you ever ate a Cheese Pumpkin Pie, you would love Pumpkin Pie then.
    this is the right Pumpkin to make pie from…. not the round, orangey jack-O-lantern kind. LOL!!
    No wonder you folks hate pumpkin pie! The first step is using the right pumpkin.

  16. It’s a Shame!! A shame that the season is over and I JUST found out about this drink!! A unusual trip to Specs and I discovered your Pumpkin Pie Soda. WOW! I love Pumpkin! Like a lot and this drink was amazing! I am going to try to make it back to Specs to grab more of these.

    Thanks and Happy Holidays!

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