Foraging in my local Trader Joe’s, my face reflects the orange hue of its seasonal displays as I wander the aisles on a hunt for a new fall item to steal my heart. I revel in the tiny pumpkins, the sugar pumpkins, the regulation-sized pumpkins, and the Burtonesque gourds. I meander through the pumpkin spreads, the pumpkin pasta, the pumpkin oat milks, and the pumpkin toilet brushes.
Suddenly, as if pulled by a magnetic force stronger than, well, a magnet, my eyes zero in on a plastic bag, nestled coyly on the shelf with the regular nuts and seeds. But regular it is not! It is everything I had hoped for contained in a deceptively simple package with Halloween-y undertones.
My heart racing and my palms sweating, I reach in and unveil the double threat of the harvest treats—Pumpkin Spiced Pumpkin Seeds. Pumpkin on top of pumpkin! Could I even handle that? I sprint to the checkout, passing by the towers of pumpkin face wash, pumpkin cheese, pumpkin hand sanitizer, and Impossible Pumpkin Burgers.
Finally home, I light a pumpkin-scented candle, close my eyes and engage all my senses. First, I gently shake the bag. It sounds like music. Granted, I haven’t been to a concert in two years, but I feel transported back to my friend’s basement, where he often plays the maracas due to his limited musical abilities.
I open the bag, stick my nose inside and inhale. I am swept away by the intoxicating aroma of butter, more butter, a hint of cinnamon, and allspice. I don’t smell pumpkin, though. I start to question everything. Does pumpkin not have a smell? I go over to the small pumpkin patch on my counter that’s crowding out all my appliances, but I smell nothing. I feel like my world is shattering. Desperate, I rush over to the pumpkin candle. It envelopes me in a cozy cloud of vanilla, allspice, and cinnamon. It checks out, whew.
As I dig in, my first tactile discovery is that there are no shells to deal with. The plump pointy seeds have been plucked from their prisons and glazed generously, albeit unevenly, with clumpy sugar crystals cemented to the surface with saturated fat and rolled in autumn delight. The seeds sparkle festively, successfully deflecting attention from their unpleasant greenish-brownish tone.
I delicately pop one in my mouth, but it’s like a ghost of fall. The single seed is too airy, too insubstantial, too crispy to bite more than once. I decide to stop being a lady—who am I kidding anyway—grab a cup-sized handful of the sticky pellets, and shove them into my mouth. A few casualties of my aggressive approach cascade to the floor.
My taste buds are immediately awash with the spicy sweetness and a creamy mouthfeel; the latter lingers. I reach for more right away. “These must be made at the Pringles factory ’cause you can’t have just one,” I mutter to myself, practicing my dad jokes. As I munch away, the flavor evokes that special New England feeling of the first nip in the air when you don your puffy vest, but you’re not quite ready for a jacket with the full arm insulation.
I daydream about all the different uses for this snack. Late-night binge eating while watching the Buffy the Vampire Slayer musical episode and trying not to choke up (and choke) when Tara sings “I’m Under Your Spell” to Willow. Inviting friends over for a creative cocktail hour with pumpkin soup martinis topped with a dash of the spiced pumpkin seeds. Aggravating trick-or-treating children by handing out individual seeds instead of candy. Or sprinkling them on a salad.
Now that my taste buds are seasonally coated, they are happy, and I am hyper. I jump up to take my dog out for a walk to make the most of this newfound energy. Immediately I hear a resounding crackle. It’s my L. L. Bean slipper crushing the Pumpkin Spiced Pumpkin Seeds to a pulp under my feet. It is the true sound of fall. And the sugar rush is real.