Recently I was in Orlando with my wife on a combination business trip and visit with one of our daughters. We were going out for breakfast and chose a place called First Watch. My daughters have both recommended the place, and had taken my wife there previously. They have rarely steered me wrong, so I decided to forgo the sure thing, the Florida Waffle at Keke’s, and give it a try.
Well, the red flags were already flying before entering the restaurant. Quinoa was prominent on the specials board as were whole grain and wheat germ. What I missed was quickly brought to my attention when my wife squealed, “Ooh, pumpkin pancakes!” My head was still spinning as we took our seats. I tried to peruse the menu, but was distracted by my wife rubbing her hands together like Beelzebub zeroing in on a juicy soul. Chicken sausage with apples, power bowls, crimini, and muesli, it reminded me of having to arrive at school at 7:00 AM to take the SATs.
I settled on the whole grain blueberry pancakes while my wife enthusiastically ordered the pumpkin special. The waitress/spirit guide shared a moment with her as though they had a lifetime of understanding and I just didn’t get it. I was in no position to argue.
The part that puzzled me the most was my wife’s reaction to the pumpkin. She is by no means a stoic, but is generally genteel and reserved, polite and poised. Now she was acting like a first-year defensive back who just returned an interception for a touchdown. As a compliance officer, she is the ultimate rule follower and now she sits across from me doing the “raise the roof” thing with her arms…in public.
I suppose I should have seen the signs. About a week earlier, we stopped in a Dunkin Donuts and they had just put out the first pumpkin donuts of the season. She bypassed all of the jelly, icing, creme and custard in deference to the plain orange ring that looked like it belonged on that Fischer Price baby stacking toy. Look, she can eat whatever she wants, but upon returning to the car, she immediately texted her sister and our three children to let them know that the magic donuts were back. They all immediately texted back their excitement along with their individual plans to race to their local shop. It was as if they created the Andrew Jackson donut, and every 99 cent pastry came with a $20 bill baked inside.
Another curiosity regarding my wife’s pumpkin fetish is the fact that I have prepared nearly every meal she has eaten in the past 35 years and did about 98% of the food shopping. Not once during any of that did I hear her say, “Honey, how about some pumpkin for dinner tonight?”, or “Sweetie, I added pumpkin to the shopping list. I notice that we are nearly out.” I’m not sure that pumpkin is even meant to be food. In my experience, it is a decoration. I’ve carved dozens of pumpkins in my day and prepared nearly 50,000 meals. I couldn’t even tell you what part of the pumpkin is the food part. I label the parts as seeds, eyes, nose, mouth and scalp. Legend has it that some poor decapitated fool in upstate New York even used one as a substitute head.
Have you ever driven past an apple orchard or cornfield and thought, however briefly, “It would be cool to pull over and pick a fresh one.”? Well, I have driven by a few pumpkin patches in my day and never thought of food. Even our early settlers only ate pumpkin because of their ease of capture. They sit on the ground rather than in trees, they have the opposite of camouflage, and are large enough to be found from a distance. The Puritans were not of the heartiest stock, being able to outrun only the turkey. They just happened to run out of food during pumpkin season while being winded from all of the turkey chasing.
Maybe it’s a marketing thing. There are plenty of seasonal treats. Still, we do not restrict our chocolate consumption to Valentine’s Day or Easter. I can have eggnog or turkey any time I want. It’s as though someone invented a taste sensation for just, say, Yom Kippur. “You can’t eat, so try crack on Yom Kippur. It’ll give you what to atone for.” Pumpkin is my wife’s once a year crack fix.
Our waitress returns to check on our meal. “How is everything?” she asks. My wife giddily reports that she couldn’t be happier and I nod as I chew through a bite of pancake with the consistency of particle board. Apparently this is not good enough for Tinkerbell and she asks me directly. The best I can do is to swallow hard and rasp out, “You can really taste the whole grain.” After she leaves, my wife gives me her best “Well I never” stinkeye and says, “You didn’t have to say it like that.” I nod in contrition, but I’m secretly smiling on the inside. The fever is gone. My wife is back!
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