Why do so many Americans drive for miles each autumn to buy a vegetable that they are unlikely to eat? While most people around the world eat pumpkin throughout the year, North Americans reserve it for holiday pies and other desserts that celebrate the harvest season and the rural past. They decorate the front of their houses with pumpkins every autumn and welcome Halloween trick-or-treaters with elaborately carved jack-o’-lanterns. Towns hold annual pumpkin festivals featuring giant pumpkins and carving contests, even though few have any historic ties to the crop.
In this fascinating cultural and natural history, Cindy Ott tells the story of the pumpkin. Beginning with the myth of the first Thanksgiving, she shows how Americans have used the pumpkin to fulfill their desire to maintain connections to nature and to the family farm of lore, and, ironically, have revitalized small farms and rural communities in the process. And while the pumpkin has inspired American myths and traditions, the pumpkin itself has changed because of the ways people have perceived, valued, and used it.
Pumpkin is a smart and lively study of the deep stories hidden in common, everyday things and the power of those things to make profound changes in the world around us.
Read "Giant Pumpkins" by Cindy Ott on the Oxford University Press Blog!
Read "Why Americans Go Crazy For Pumpkin And Pumpkin-Flavored Stuff" on the NPR blog, the Salt.
Read "Biting into Me: Food's Role in Identity and Connection" on Maurice Tracy's HuffPost blog.
History Book Club Bestseller! Top 75 Selling Book in fall 2013
Have you ever really thought about pumpkins? Check out this fascinating natural and cultural history, by Cindy Ott.http://amzn.to/TMNMEs
- Michael Pollan @michaelpollan
“An original, carefully researched, engagingly written, even playful and witty foray into the exploding field of food history by an up-and-coming star in the field.”
- William Cronon, author of Nature’s Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West
Ott doesn't just discuss dessert and Halloween; farming practices, our ideas about nature and the purity of rural life, the creation of a pumpkin that does not reproduce but is easy to paint, the infusion of pumpkin patches with moral values--all contribute to a captivating book about an iconic American symbol.
- Marilyn Dahl, book review editor, Shelf Awareness
“When you scoop out that October pumpkin, you get lots of seeds, a mountain of pulp, and more than three centuries' worth of jumbo ideas about politics, women, men, modern life, and American identity. Ott's enjoyable history of this big, storied vegetable is also a masterful study of how Americans have imagined and remade nature to imagine and remake ourselves--and how nature, in turn, remakes the world we live in.”
- Jenny Price, author of Flight Maps: Adventures with Nature in Modern America