Felix Salmon argues that we don't really like pumpkin--we just like sugar and pumpkin pie spice:
The weird thing about pumpkin’s rise to baconlike ubiquity is that pumpkin, on its own, is not a very appetizing food at all. A dense and stringy fruit, it needs the accompaniment of a lot of sugar and spices before it becomes particularly palatable. As a marketing tool, however, pumpkin is perfectly pitched for today’s eaters. The fact that it needs that extra flavoring? That’s a bonus, not a bug, as far as the restaurant business is concerned. A pumpkin dish, in the era of the locavore, has connotations of virtue—when you think of pumpkin, you think of something farm-grown and wholesome. That helps make it a permissible indulgence, even when what you’re eating is mainly just sugar and spice. Never mind the recipe realities—savor those associations!
I strenuously disagree, a disagreement that I attribute to the fact that Felix was born in Britain. I like pumpkin without pumpkin pie spice just fine, just as I like sweet potatoes without marshmallows and butternut squash without brown sugar. One of my favorite recipes is pumpkin-peanut soup, which involves no sugar or pumpkin pie spice at all.
But I suspect that it's one of those tastes you have to acquire at a young age. Americans are mystified by Marmite and the even more grotesque Vegamite--and yet, somehow surprised when they find out that so many Europeans seem to find peanut butter disgusting. There are some native foods which are just not that appealing to anyone who didn't grow up on them.
It's true that pumpkin custard is delicious in or out of a pie shell, and that like many foods, pumpkin tastes very good with spices in it. It's also true that--like many squashes and gourds--it needs to be stewed and pureed to get rid of its stringy texture. But that doesn't mean that people don't actually like it. Chuck roast is disgustingly chewy and unappetizing unless it is slow-braised, and yet I wouldn't say that means that I don't really like the beef in pot roast.
Finally, I must protest the assertion that Americans somehow think pumpkin lattes are wholesome and healthy. Are there really people so stupid as to think that pumpkin pie, or its liquid variants, are health foods? Or that a Starbucks beverage comes straight from the hearth? I've been eating pumpkin breads, pies, and cakes for many years. I've often heard them called delicious. But I've never heard it alleged that they were good for you.
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