Great pumpkin (shortage)

I contemplated the pumpkinless condition of our commissary. While shopping in late September, I was struck by the irony of a sign in the produce section proclaiming, "Pumpkin Carving Headquarters!” Somewhat presumptuous for a store devoid of actual pumpkins.

Yes, there were the implements – pumpkin carving kits ready for slicing and scooping, packaged in festive black and orange – but where were the implementees?

I wanted to shout with Linus, “Oh, Great Pumpkin, where are you?”

But on the first day of October I walked into the commissary, and there they were in all their golden glory, prompting me instead to exclaim, “Pumpkins!” to no one in particular.

I had been over-eager. The timing was perfect. Fall arrived in living color, with swirls of red and yellow leaves in the parking lot and piles of orange pumpkins on the produce aisle.

Now on my fourth overseas assignment, I know the shopping mantra. It goes something like: “Don't wait until you need it. If you see it, buy it. In fact, buy two.” This is probably the cause of many shortages at commissaries and exchanges worldwide, feeding our ever-increasing stock-up mentality.

It's a vicious cycle, but I confess I did buy two pumpkins that day. You may not consider pumpkins among the necessities of life. But a pile of pumpkins says “October” like nothing else, and I am a big fan of October.

In fact, I’m an enthusiast of all things autumnal: crunching leaves, jack o’lanterns, homecoming games, caramel apples, candy corn, cross country meets, chili dogs and trick-or-treating.

On my latest commissary foray, my list included the ingredients for another fall fixture at our house, pumpkin cookies. Each year I set aside one day in October to make them by the dozens, some for us and plenty for friends and neighbors.

It’s an autumn ritual. I mark it on my calendar. It’s an all-day event, the making of the pumpkin cookies.

This year, “Pumpkin Cookie Day” was supposed to be today. You may notice that instead I am writing this column. There’s a reason: I failed to observe the aforementioned shopping mantra.

I did not stock up on canned pumpkin in the summer, or whenever it was last available at our commissary. I waited until I needed it. Sadly, I found that the lower shelf – where cylinders of prepared pumpkin should have been waiting to be taken and transformed into yummy harbingers of harvest – was empty. Inquiries as to the arrival date of another shipment proved fruitless, and squashless.

So once again I’m left to ponder the pumpkinless state of our commissary.

I know what you are thinking. Although my recipe calls for the primeval pumpkin of my forebears, ie., picked, packaged and labeled by “Libby,” I could break with tradition and use fresh pumpkin. I hear that’s what the Pilgrims did.

Another option is to scour German grocery stores for canned pumpkin, a somewhat more rare and expensive commodity over here. I could also use what my friend Rita calls the “Mommissary” and ask my mom to mail some to me at no small expenditure of time and money.

I’ll certainly exercise one of these options. Pumpkin Cookie Day must go on – despite minor setbacks like a pumpkin shortage.

Soon, if the commissary shelf is still bare, you'll find me at a local market, lugging armloads of what the Germans call “kurbis” out to my car. Some may become treats for friends and family, others will join the colorful display on our porch.

To me they all say the same thing: “Welcome back, October. It's good to see you again.”


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