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Look, we know what you’re thinking: This is by far one of our worst pun-based ideas. But Greg gets real pissy if we don’t let him just go to town roasting something, both literally and figuratively, every thirty days or so. And so we present: pumpkins.
Sorry for not writing more Meatwatch. Or sorry for being back, depending on how you feel about my whole deal. I don’t have a good excuse for my absence. I’d like to say it’s just been one thing after another, which most people will nod at because it sounds relatable and wise, but really that’s just describing linear time: things happen in order. The basic fact of the matter is that I wanted to write more, but I’ve been busy reading about battleships on wikipedia instead.
I love this time of year. Leaves are falling like main-battery shells, the weather turns cold and gray like the steel side of a warship, and the humidity finally cracks. Autumn in the mid-atlantic is the best time of year. I don’t mean that we have the best version of the season – that probably belongs to New England, a bit further north – and in fact ours probably sucks overall, if you look at the global power rankings. I don’t think my fall is better than your fall, but my fall is for sure better than my summer, winter, or spring. October/November is about as good as it gets. It is time to go outside, and get a pumpkin.
Pumpkins are the queen of the farm. They possess unmatched power and glory, and many nations measure their status based on how many pumpkins they can put to sea. They are the capital gourds of the fleet.
I’m not here to talk about pumpkins for eating. These are purely decorative. Your average un-spiced pumpkin is good for two things: carving into a spooky face, or saying you’re going to carve it into a spooky face and then getting distracted while it rots on your porch and gets destroyed by squirrels. It’s not that different from something like HMS Dreadnought, who only had one major surface engagement occur during her career, and missed it because she was in the shop getting the tires rotated. In fact, I’m not sure Dreadnought ever actually fired her guns in anger, though she did ram a submarine one time. That is undeniably cool, but for such a huge investment, represents a real wasted opportunity.
You might want a roasting pumpkin, which I don’t know much about, but they can actually be considered food. Personally I’d cut out the middleman and just get a sweet potato, but unless you are one very specific person out of the entire human race (who, I should point out, cannot currently read), I’m not your dad, so you do what you want. Nobody wanted to build Jackie Fisher’s insane battlecruisers with 20” guns and three inches of armor, just like nobody wants a big weird pumpkin they can eat. Even if it would be better, it goes against orthodoxy – just get the big round orange joint with the stem on top, like a normal person.
Carving, should you get your act together enough to actually do it, requires cutting through the thick armored belt outside the pumpkin, and scooping out the magazine of seeds and gross strings. I usually advocate for huge knives as the all-purpose weapon to use on food, but in this instance you’re better off with specialized tools, such as a reciprocating saw or a power drill. If you’re lucky, your pumpkin will be the only gourd left on your porch, like how Nagato was the only Japanese battleship to survive the war, though Nagato had to deal with the US Navy’s submarine fleet, and you’re only worried about extremely cool teens getting disrespectful with a baseball bat. If you’re even luckier it will end up like USS Texas, the only Dreadnought-era battleship left anywhere in the world.
I like to keep it simple when I’m re-enacting John Woo’s Face/Off on vegetables. Simple triangle eyes, using the same trigonometry as an optical rangefinder. Throw some teeth on that bad boy. The standard-type pumpkin face will serve you well in any engagement.
You can, if you want, buy a pumpkin at the store like some kind of dumbass. Just go to a building, and leave with a big gourd. This is unforgivably boring. What you should do is wrench one free from the living earth, straight off the vine with your bare hands. Go to a farm – they’re all the same and I’m sure there’s one near you, so just pick one. Get on the tractor, which is hauling a line of carts behind it like a squadron of ships forming a battle line formation, and they’ll kick you out where you need to be.
To pick out a good pumpkin, you want something around the caliber of either a King George V or Yamato, which would be the 14 to 18.1 inch range. Too small and there isn’t enough room to carve anything cool, too large and handling becomes an issue. Unless your home is the USS New Jersey or another Iowa-class battleship you probably don’t have an overhead rail system for handling large objects, so get something you can carry easily in one arm, while you juggle a toddler with the other.
At this point I would also scoop up a grip of decorative gourds. I know that technically a jack o lantern is also a decorative gourd, but that takes work to accomplish versus the innate decorative quality of a fucked up squash. In two ways the decorative gourd resembles the German High Seas Fleet of the 1910s: as a gourd-in-being they accomplish their stated purpose simply by existing and making you think about them, and they’re inevitably going to end up at the bottom of the sea, having never done anyone any good.
This actually happens a shocking number of times. Check this out: “During the Battle of the Eastern Solomons on 27 August, Mutsu, assigned to the support force, fired four shells at enemy reconnaissance aircraft, the first and only time her guns were fired in anger during the war”. They spent like a billion dollars on this thing, fired a total of four shots from eight guns, and then a year later it spontaneously combusted in its parking spot. I don’t want to armchair quarterback here, but it seems like maybe an average of .5 rounds (that didn’t even hit anything!) per gun is maybe not the best return on your investment. I’m not sure what my point is anymore, if I ever had one, but I guess it’s that you don’t need to go berzerk at the farm, just get one or two pumpkins and call it done. You don’t need to waste too much money, just waste a little bit, to trick yourself into feeling alive.
Pumpkin flavoring, since eating the actual fruit (vegetable? who knows) sucks outside of a pie, is best achieved through spice. Many are the secrets of Pumpkin Spice, and much like the anti-aircraft VT Fuse used in the US Navy’s 5”/38 caliber dual-purpose batteries, they are closely guarded by the powers that be (Starbucks). The key ingredients are well-understood: cinnamon, nutmeg, something else – maybe cloves? But the proportions can be whatever you feel like. Because I’m a tightwad I don’t usually go to the store and buy PSLs, I just make PS Coldbrew at home.
This started because my wife and Rob’s (TheChirurgeon, who you may know from his tireless work over at known website “goon hammer”) wife went to CostCo. As a Bit (?) they came back with a three-pound can of goddamn Folger’s, a deeply cursed ground coffee that I would never normally allow in my home. Stale, bitter, and otherwise flavorless, these beans are the pre-dreadnought of coffee, obsolete and not worth maintaining, a liability only useful for ramming into a Turkish minefield in the Dardanelles. It sucks, but because I hate wasting things, I use it for cold brew. The key to making coffee this bad drinkable is to mix the extracted bean water, in maybe a 4:1 coffee:adulterant ratio, with a simple syrup (so, 1:1 water:sugar, or something like 8:1:1 coffee:water:sugar overall) that’s been spiked with a generous dash of Pumpkin Spices. Throw that in a jar and have a little sip every time you open the fridge. This is still not great coffee, and as the weather turns frosty it’s emphatically not Cold Brew Season, but it’s pretty drinkable as an afternoon Treat. Good enough that I have stayed the course, and I will be doing so for quite some time, because the can is, again, three pounds. I know a three-pounder doesn’t sound like a lot – and it wasn’t, the Royal Navy kept throwing them overboard because they weren’t good at anything – but in a high-capacity round like a coffee can it has enough of a charge to get you moving.
Enjoy this time of year the best way you can, because it doesn’t last. Go nuts on a pumpkin with a chainsaw, unwind with a long wiki-dive on the IJN Combined Fleet, or watch Hocus Pocus again. Before you know it, the era of the pumpkin will close, and you’ll be swarmed by aircraft carriers. Specifically, by December you’re going to end up with a tree inside your house, and it’ll probably have some kind of nest in it, and then my wife will get super pissed and I’ll have to get a plastic tree next year.
Thanks for sticking around, and making this column what it is: a little-read corner of this website that exists solely for me to waste your time and get yelled at. If you have questions or comments, let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org, or right here in the comments. Meatwatch is here to help.