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.
Listen to "Pumpkin Love: From Lattes to Beer" for an interview with Cindy on CBC radio Canada's Early Edition, aired Oct 21, 2013
Read "How Did Pumpkins Become Scary Halloween Staple?" an excerpt of Pumpkin in Parade magazine, Oct 23, 2013
Read Cindy explain the Pumpkin Latte craze in: Toronto's National Post; New York Post; and Salon
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.
Barnes and Noble Featured 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
"Cindy Ott digs deeply and creatively in furrowing a few familiar and many elusive sources in this major contribution to American agricultural and sociocultural history." -Michael Kammen, The Journal of American History, Vol. 100(1), 2013
History Book Club Bestseller! Top 75 Selling Book in fall 2012
“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