It’s finally autumn in Corpus Christi.
But while I still must temper my desire to go apple-picking in my favorite sweater with the understanding that it still hits the upper 80s on the daily here, there remain many reasons to celebrate this time of year.
There’s the holidays, of course, as well as the traditional start of the NBA season in October in years when a deadly pandemic isn’t wreaking havoc across the globe. But, being a food blog, it goes without saying that I’ll be focusing here on the culinary side of things. Namely, one of my most favorite fall ingredients: pumpkin.
Yes, I too enjoy laughing at the memes about the obsession over pumpkin spice lattes. I also find it funny that it’s become almost a signifier to the official start of autumn — perhaps a product of meme folklore or even cleverly-thought out marketing. But I won’t for a minute say I haven’t enjoyed the beverage on many occasions.
Something about the taste of pumpkin just drives in that notion of the season. Part of me feels this has to do with memory. As children, we experience things with much more abandon — not weighed down by the conditioning we inherit as we enter adulthood. Depending on how much you embrace it, you can find traces of that nostalgic longing within the things we indulge in — food being one example.
That’s not a clinical analysis, of course. Just speculation — though I feel there’s likely a kernel of truth to it.
But returning to pumpkin, there are a myriad of ways in which the ingredient is utilized in fall cooking that I always celebrate.
For one, my mother has for years made these delicious pumpkin rolls with cream cheese in the center that have long been the bane of any diet I might fool myself into thinking I can carry into the holidays with me. Also, a shoutout ought to go to pumpkin empanadas which, though the pumpkin filling reigns supreme year round for me, become a particular treat this time of year.
Perhaps my favorite use of the ingredient among local establishments can be found at my favorite local coffee shop: Cafe Calypso.
No, it’s not a pumpkin spice latte, though I recall they deliver a delicious version of that in their own right. It’s a baked good — a pumpkin bread topped with pumpkin seeds that establishes the perfect balance of taste and texture and is something I always enjoy picking up when I see it’s made its way back to one of their display cases.
Perhaps it’s the hours I’ve spent at that cafe and accompanying book store, a home-away-from-home for me for years, that has helped make that particular bread become a signifier for me that it was truly finally autumn in these parts. Whatever the reason, I would definitely suggest others check it out.
Those are just a handful of my favorite pumpkin treats. There are many other ways the gourd has been utilized to perfection, but my tastes are fairly simple — perhaps, in lieu of the pumpkin spice memes, basic at times.
But whatever the reason, and whatever your favorite fall ingredient is, these days call for the celebration of the simple joys. Embrace ’em, and welcome the fact that this year is drawing to a close.