Thanksgiving is a generally pointless holiday. What it's celebrating, I'm not exactly sure. Is it an easy remembrance, allowing Americans to harken back to a time when white settlers and the darker-skinned natives of the land they happened upon still got along? A mental time machine of sorts that lets us ignore years of bloodshed, mass graves, near-extermination, and a still-currently-happening marginalization of a race of human beings? I just don't know.
What I do know: Pumpkin pie is a reason to live.
You may have noticed, but pumpkin is at the front and center of an egregious smear campaign—both by the people peddling the product and those railing against its ubiquity. In other words, there's pumpkin shit everywhere.
As Nielsen reports:
From your neighborhood coffee house to your local grocery store, this palate-pleasing player has spread like wildfire throughout restaurants and stores this season, and seemingly earlier than last year. Last year, pumpkin-flavored offerings in the U.S. grew 18.8 percent in Nielsen-measured retail outlets, selling over $290 million during calendar year 2012.
Pumpkin is having its best year ever—whatever that means—but it's not because people particularly like to eat pumpkins. It's because they like "pumpkin flavor." And, for the most part, pumpkin flavor almost never contains any pumpkin. If you bite a raw pumpkin, it will not taste like a drink you can order at Starbucks, which is not surprising but not necessarily any less unabashedly dishonest, either. The idea for this "pumpkin shit"—and why it's able to be peddled off as something not not-authentically pumpkin—is that it co-opts the flavor of pumpkin pie, just without the pumpkin (and often without many of the other ingredients too).
This bastardization of Arguably Mankind's Foremost Post-Dinner Culinary Achievement has both led to its ever-growing presence and opened it up to criticism from heathens who are diametrically opposed to any widespread notion of human joy. Pumpkin-spice fatigue is sort of like oxygen fatigue or blinking fatigue. This thing is everywhere, and now I hate it. Still, there's some merit to the backlash, as non-pumpkin pumpkin products are usually terrible for you, and as the corporate-coffee-shop-ization of the flavor obscures our greatest gourd.
Somewhere along the way, we lost sight of what really matters. While, according to Nielsen, pie filling accounted for 42.7 percent of all pumpkin-related purchases last year, other numbers suggest that pumpkin pie only accounted for 3 percent of all pumpkin consumption. We got so good at making things taste like pumpkin pie that we forgot where we came from. And now, some are calling for pumpkin pie to be banished from the Thanksgiving table.
Here is where it must end.
Without pumpkin pie, there would be no reason to continue with this elegiac revisionist-historical sham that is Thanksgiving. Without it, we're left with bland, unfrozen white meat that always looks better than it tastes, an excuse to not actually bake bread, mashed potatoes (which are actually pretty good, I'll admit), and continued suppression of what happened to the Native Americans after the first meal was over.
Pumpkin pie is our ultimate dessert. While your palate is certainly a subjective thing—and attempts at describing how food tastes can lead to disturbing, fanfic-esque nightmares like this—the actual goodness of pumpkin pie is pretty clearly real. If pumpkin pie didn't taste like the gift from heaven that it is, we wouldn't have this pumpkin-spice hysteria, would we? The flavor of pumpkin pie is everywhere because people love the way it tastes. And that is often why we eat food.
Is pumpkin pie lazy? Yes. Did it possibly not even exist as a Thanksgiving staple until the previous century? Also yes. Do either of those things matter? No. Thanksgiving is an American holiday, and there are few things more American than dumping a can of pre-prepared mush into pie crust and calling it dessert. And if we actually want to be historically accurate with our Thanksgiving dinners, we'd be eating porridge and some weird bird that isn't a turkey.
Sure, I get that Thanksgiving is a pseudo-tradition with murky origins at best, you say, but isn't this annual ritual of faking like we're taking part in some culinary rite passed down from pre-American times actually a tradition in itself?
To that, I say, fine. In keeping with this desire, reclaim pumpkin pie for what it actually is. It's pumpkin pie.