Thursday, October 2, 2008

Around town:The pumpkin resolution


By Anita Susan Brenner

Every year, I make the same mistake.

Every year, I resolve to correct it.

Every year, I miss the mark.

I recognize my mistake in early October. That’s when I notice the pumpkins growing on the parking lot side of the Dish restaurant. We go inside Dish for lunch. That’s when I notice new items on the menu. Maybe a pumpkin souffle or a pumpkin tart. Maybe a pumpkin bread or a pumpkin soup.

But by then, it’s too late. By the time the pumpkins appear at the Dish restaurant on Foothill Boulevard in La CaƱada Flintridge, it’s too late.

Too late to plant my own pumpkins. Too late to plant them from seed.

One year I did plant pumpkins in October. It didn’t work. Pumpkins need a couple of months to grow. Plus, experts agree that October is not the time to plant pumpkins. October, according to the leading horticulturalists, is the time to plant celery, chard, chives, garlic, kale, leeks, lettuce, onions, parsley, peas, radishes and spinach.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to plant garlic or celery or chard. I’m not into chives, kale, leeks, lettuce, onions, parsley, peas, radishes or spinach.

It’s pumpkins that entice me. Pumpkins large and small. Pumpkins organic and sprayed with gypsy powder. Pumpkins sown from seed, that emerge, gloriously, into a pumpkin patch.

Cynthia Ott, in her seminal article on the giant orange gourd (“Squashed myths: The cultural history of the pumpkin in North America”), proposes that the pumpkin is unique among vegetables. Its “huge size, its animated growth, and its transmutability have made it both a staple crop and a formidable and flexible symbol for centuries.” According to Ott, the pumpkin “is interconnected with American ideas about the natural world, national identity, capitalism, community, and culture.”

She’s right. Ever since Jack Pumpkinhead appeared in L. Frank Baum’s “Oz” books, the bright orange pumpkin has held sway over the American imagination. Jack Pumpkinhead, you may recall, lived in a pumpkin house and grew pumpkins to replace his own head when it spoiled or got squashed by an enemy.

Wikipedia describes Jack as a male animated homunculus — a mere fictional character, but I when I was little, Jack Pumpkinhead was as real as the Jack-o’-lanterns we carved each October. As real as Mickey, Minnie, Donald and Johnny Appleseed. As real as the ancient Foothill legend of a lawman named Deputy Smith.

To glimpse a pumpkin is to glimpse one’s childhood.

Once again it is October. Once again, I make my resolutions. I plan to plant pumpkins.

From seed. Maybe in June.

Unless I forget.


ANITA SUSAN BRENNER is a local resident and a trial attorney with Law Offices of Torres & Brenner in Pasadena.
Published Thursday, October 2, 2008 4:13 AM PDT

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