Pity the poor pumpkin. Unlike its more prosaic cousins in the squash family—zucchini, butternut and acorn, for example, all dinner table staples—the great orange orb of the Cucurbita clan is relegated to Halloween and Thanksgiving appearances, and then mostly for decorative purposes rather than for culinary quality. It just gets no respect.
Oh yes, there are plenty more uses for pumpkin than pies. Italy stuffs it into ravioli. Japan coats it with tempura. Thailand steams it with custard for dessert. Here in North America, though, the pumpkin’s genetic home, we generally stick to roasting the seeds and trying to find the allspice we bought last year so we can crank out the annual pie.
The fate of the holiday pumpkin is ignoble. It is butchered, carved and subjected to other anthropomorphic acts, then left to wither sadly on the stoop—all in exchange for a few moments of frivolity.
Since we choose to disguise pumpkins as people, perhaps we can also attach feelings to them. Is it not possible that pumpkins in the field—like those pictured above near Nicasio—wait with as much hope-filled anticipation for their own mythical Linus, a single human to revere them, as that blanketed little boy did for the Great Pumpkin?