Who is not the fairest of them all…


ET poking his head out of a ball gown. The funny vegetable photograph is a genre which has never endeared itself to me yet, when I look at this gourd, I don’t see food, I see funny. For much of my life I assumed that the taste for pumpkin was part and parcel of being American. That it should be chosen as a symbol of thanksgiving for safe passage across hostile seas in a leaky boat in order to live in penury among locals who are ostensibly far from keen on your immigration suggests that joyous pumpkin dinners should currently be celebrated on a daily basis all over Europe and particularly in Dover.


I have never got to grips with the pumpkin. It seems to offer more than it can possibly deliver, unlike scorzonera, whose name I love, and which looks like shit but tastes delicious. Pumpkin, on the other hand, looks delicious but tastes unremittingly dull. Admittedly, if enough spices and flavourings are added, pumpkin can be very acceptable but so can most things…that is the point of spices and flavourings. The monotony of pumpkin is as relentless as a dentist’s drill or…soup. Each successive spoonful, or painful, is the same as the previous one only leaving us with concern for how much more we can bear without screaming. The pumpkin, like Justin Bieber and back to back marathon running, has a devoted following upon which evidence I rest my case. However, having scoured the internet for interesting things to do with a pumpkin, I shall do my damnedest to turn this gift of a pumpkin into a tsunami of umami and if that fails, I shall attempt one of the more arcane suggestions uncovered by my research: but how many rats to purchase?

About Food,Photography & France

Photographer and film maker living in France. After a long career in London, my wife and I have settled in the Vendee, where we run residential digital photography courses with a strong gastronomic flavour.
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65 Responses to Who is not the fairest of them all…

  1. Graham says:

    Methinks you need but one rat (for the coachman) but six mice as horses to pull the golden coach and all can be found in the cellar. Or is that just a fairy story?

  2. Mad Dog says:

    I remember seeing a creepy programme on TV as a child where pumpkins contained something evil and then had to wait 20 something years before buying one from a road side stall in America. I have to confess that gourds and most squash are too sweet for my taste buds, but I vaguely remember an ex girlfriend making a hot and spicy pumpkin soup that was enjoyable 🙂

  3. I don’t buy pumpkins – I get more flavour out of chewing a sheet of A4. I do buy what the French call the “Potimarron”, though – a sized-down, deep orange baby pumpkin that make fabulous soup (yup, I love the stuff) when combined with a leek, a couple of spuds and a cube of that chemical junk that masquerades as instant broth. When it’s cooked (don’t use too much water), Whizz it up with a blender and stir in a bit of single cream, then rethink your anti-soup stance 🙂

  4. Rörschåch says:

    Roger–I’m with you on pumpkins. Never truly understood pumpkin pie. I think the first problem is we have developed the taste out of them in favor of size and color. I don’t know how much mo-ing you have going on in Europe, but the US certainly takes the prize in making sure things look gorgeous, while lacking an enormous amount of substance.

    I was going to send you a link to a lovely pumpkin dish, East Indian, until I realized it was that overly spiced bit in your piece. Oh well. I really am with you.


    ~Janet (The Kitchen Bridge)

  5. Misky says:

    This more squat variety always reminds me of the old drawings in Cinderella. Not the girl, necessarily, but that pumpkin coach. >

  6. I’m with you on this one- pumpkin is awful and I have absolutely no idea why people here go absolutely crazy over them. When I changed my picture to one of myself holding a pumpkin, I kept assuring people I did not actually buy a pumpkin nor did my opinion on them change…I just looked really good in the picture ahahha.

  7. Amanda says:

    Beautiful photo and thoughts on pumpkins. 🙂

  8. ChgoJohn says:

    I’m not against using pumpkin in dishes, Roger, but I realize that it’s not the pumpkin I like but the wide assortment of spices that are used to make it palatable. Almost anything will taste better if one uses half a spice rack when cooking it.

  9. Sharon says:

    Squashes yes, pumpkins no. Possibly I was put off by my mother in law’s pumpkin pie which was mistakenly mistaken for a table mat and had a large dish of baked potatoes plonked on it. Best use for a pumpkin pie I’ve found yet!

  10. platedujour says:

    I have to disagree on this one. Have a look ag my pumpkin gnocchi recipe, these are absolutely yummy, then my lentils with pumpkin and pumpkin and carrot soup of Moroccan origins. All these dishes are lovely. I agree on the pumpkin pie though- brrrrrrrrr. As for the pictures, I realy think pumpkin is beautiful and very gracious object to be photographed 🙂

  11. EllaDee says:

    I have an ongoing pumpkin argument with my Dad who, professes them cow food, so I’m an old hand at defending its culinary honor. A lot of the bad pumpkin press comes from them being sold, and cooked before they are ripe enough. Pumpkin does work well with spices… stir fried with sesame oil, chilies and fish/soy sauce makes a heavenly meal. Pumpkin soup is ubiquitous on Australian winter menus… roasted pumpkin blended with a little good stock preferably homemade and seasonings of salt, white pepper, good olive oil and maybe a little sugar to taste. Cracked pepper to serve. I think though, most UK descended Australians have an affection for pumpkin roasted along with the traditional veges and meat that mum or nanna made.

  12. The pumpkin – even being American, I’ve had a hard time warming up to pumpkin as a savory dish – I like my Spiced Pumpkin Lattes, and it isn’t true, I think that phrase, “As American as Apple Pie” which isn’t really American at all – English, perhaps? But Pumpkin Pie is! And as far as I’m concerned, Pumpkin Pie is the best way to go when one wants to use pumpkin. And pumpkin cheesecake is wonderful, too, as are many pumpkin tarts. All on the sweet side of the spectrum.

    My stomach turns a bit when I see Pumpkin soup or many other pumpkin concoctions, especially when served in “cute” little hollowed out pumpkin shells, especially when the sole purpose of the vile concoction is to serve the vile concoction in the hollowed out pumpkin shells, which are inevitably cold, mealy, mushy and unappealing in taste and texture! *shudders.*

    I did once have a lovely pumpkin gnocchi and another time a pumpkin ravioli in a tart creamy wine sauce, which elevated the whole works, the whole dish punctuated with toasted walnuts.

    • The idea of pumpkin soup in a cold, mushy hollowed out pumpkin has ended any hope that I had that pumpkin might have some redeeming features 🙂

      • I’m afraid I did go on a bit of a rant, there, Roger, but for your perusal: http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2011/11/pumpkin-soup/ And to your readers, not all Americans are alike – it’s just that we’re SO large that even a small percentage of (insert word of your choice) is a HUGE number, and of course, they all deserve a place, a voice and a food blog/tv show, too. 🙂

        I grew up in a very small town in a farming community, so just fyi, there are many different varieties of pumpkin. Most are grown just for looks, shape (usually round) and/or size (big or small) as decorations – it’s a great “cash crop” and many farmers here depend on them for survival – they have ongoing pick your own pumpkin happenings and sell apple cider, jams, syrups, honey, etc. for people that drive out from the city. Or they bring them in to farmer’s markets.

        Then there is the “pie” pumpkin which has very little hollow part in the center and a lot of flesh, is rather small and somewhat unattractive. Beyond the pie pumpkin, I don’t know what varieties are considered eating pumpkins, but it may be possible that this “lack of taste” stems possibly from purchasing “non-eating” varieties.

        I don’t believe I’ve ever heard of a pumpkin (for eating) here in the states that suffered from a lack of taste – I just don’t like the taste much, especially in savory applications.

      • You are undoubtedly a pumpkinmeister ( or meistress) which I am not! I think we’re getting back to one of the early lines in my post which says that I think you need to be American to love pumpkin…which is as untrue as saying that you need to be English to love jellied eels or French to love frogs’ legs. In the end, I just think pumpkins and squashes are a bit dull, however hard is the sell:)

  13. margaret21 says:

    I think you’re being a tad unfair. The Hallowe’en pumpkin is a fairly joyless thing, and we have little else in the UK. But over in France, you have so many different squash and pumpkin which are variously sweet, nutty, earthy and it’s a whole different thing. And as Chgo John says, spices are the key to a happy pumpkin meal.

    • Too true…the stalls on roadsides and markets are awash with a technicolour range of every size of squash all with various degrees of wartiness …still doesn’t do it for me. I do have a soft spot for butternut squash:)

  14. The pleasure I get from the cucurbits of autumn is purely visual. My eye can’t resist the colours and textures through my camera lens. Eating them? I’m with you. Not so much.

  15. Vicki says:

    Great photos (as usual).

    (You obviously haven’t tasted my Butternut Pumpkin soup with a touch of nutmeg and a dollop of Greek yoghurt OR my Pumpkin, Corn & Parmesan quiche with a wholemeal flour, herb & olive oil base. Sublime. Actually I’m not much one for steamed or roasted pumpkin myself).

    Can’t imagine a sweet pumpkin pie as the Americans eat.

  16. Eha says:

    Hey – come’on: pumpkin is wonderful in so many different winter ways [yep, like Ella I do come from Down Under 🙂 !] and is probably the first vegetable for which I reach in the winter months . . . . and one does not necessarily reach for all one’s spices but you made me smile when you mentioned scorzonera which I know as salsify . . . . remember being a tiny angry sore and hot tot with measles and chickenpox and Lord knows what else and absolutely the only thing which would stop me crying and my parents fretting was a huge plate of salsify . . . . [can ‘foodies’ be born’ ?]

    • That’s remarkable…the salsify cure! I often see my neighbour, Jeanette, madly scrubbing and cleaning buckets of salsify ready for preserving…not a nice job…a bit like preparing Jerusalem artichokes, which I love as well although they are a bit farty 🙂

      • Eha says:

        Love Jerusalem artichokes but not always easy to get!! Neither are salsify!! But am surprised about the pumpkin dislike: what about all the terrific S American and Indian and S African recipes? And one does not have to use heaps of spices: how can one put a roast in the oven without a pile of pumpkin pieces nestled in garlic and bay and rosemary next to it [especially a lovely lamb shoulder] 😀 ???

      • This might sound cheeky, but I have never found a problem in NOT allowing pumpkin to nestle next to my roast! Parsnips, potatoes, onions, beetroot, fennel,,,yes. The pumpkin I bequeath to the Aussies, Red Indians, South Africans et al…. 🙂

  17. Can’t agree more with you on pumpkins, I can’t build a real friendship them. They seem to me as a real pretty decoration and I love their colors and shapes. Offer me a pumpkin pie and I would run away.

  18. Isn’t Cinderella using Uber taxi now? It’s all the rage for midnight rescue missions of damsels in distress. Come to think of it, I like pumpkin spices and not the actual pumpkin. Thanks for helping me clarify that in my mind.

  19. I love it! Although, I think your pumpkin must be different to ours… Ours is tasty shit!! 🙂

  20. I am very much with you on the subject of pumpkin – it usually offers an expected disappointment. And you have to work at it to make it taste ‘exciting.’ I prefer the squashes and all.

  21. Tis the season where everthing is suddenly pumpkin spiced over here. I do love a good pumpkin pie with whipped cream but it goes way overboard!

  22. I quite like pumpkin, in moderatio, but Big Man thinks it is the Devil’s Food. So….where do you stand on the sad, tasteless old marrow?!

  23. Karen says:

    I’ll not suggest a dish to a non pumpkin lover but I had a wonderful pumpkin soup in Austria that was drizzled with pumpkin seed oil and a sprinkling of toasted pumpkin seeds on top. Wish I had the recipe…it was delicious.

  24. Sharon says:

    I know this post is done & dusted but I was in our local beer warehouse this afternoon and spied an abomination – pumpkin beer!

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