The Great Pumpkin Conspiracy!

There's no punkin', except at Dunkin'. What gives?

I noticed as I ordered my coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts the other morning that they were once again advertising pumpkin muffins. This seasonal specialty is a favorite of my daughter, who’s away at college in a place where, alas, there are no Dunkin’ Donuts. So of course I immediately text-messaged her to taunt her about her inability to procure said muffins. She was so distraught that I promised to make her the next best thing, pumpkin biscotti, and mail them to her.

So when the weekend arrived, I went to my Giant supermarket to buy some pumpkin. I searched the baking aisle, where I thought I usually found it. I checked the canned veggie and canned fruit aisles. No pumpkin. Back I went to baking, where I finally spied a little handwritten sign on the bottom shelf, by the bar-code label that read “Libby Canned Pumpkin.” “Temporarily out-of-stock,” the sign read.

Okay, well then. I didn’t want to disappoint my daughter, so I went to Redner’s. Searched the bakery aisle. Saw a small sign on the pumpkin slot: “Temporarily out-of-stock.” Weird, huh? Hit the Aldi, sort of on a whim—you don’t actually go to Aldi to find a particular item, I don’t think. Anyway, no pumpkin there. Headed for Thriftway, increasingly puzzled. Baking aisle. No pumpkin. Went to see the manager. “You can’t get pumpkin!” he told me excitedly. “I gave up even trying about six months ago! Some sort of problem, I can’t remember what. No pumpkin anywhere!”

I went home and hit the computer, only to discover there’s a nationwide canned pumpkin shortage. The Washington Post had a heart-rending photo of the president of Libby’s cradling—get this—the last six cans of pumpkin the company had. I mean, who knew? I  know what you’re thinking here. Lack of canned pumpkin = not a problem, because I could always make my own pumpkin puree from a fresh pumpkin, right? Not so fast. My mom tried that once, 40 or 50 years ago. It was an abject failure. No one in my family has ever tried it again. That’s just the kind of clan we are.

So … no pumpkin to be had, anywhere. No pumpkin biscotti. I had to compromise and make my daughter apricot/macademia nut instead. She’ll eat them. But she’ll still be hankering for pumpkin, as will I. What will happen come Thanksgiving, when a woeful nation is forced to consume alternatives to pumpkin pie?

But even more puzzling—how come Dunkin still has pumpkin muffins—and pumpkin doughnuts—and, for that matter, pumpkin lattes for sale? There are only two possibilities here. Either Dunkin’ has cornered the market on what little canned pumpkin still exists in the world … or … THERE ISN’T REALLY ANY PUMPKIN IN THEIR MUFFINS!

I’m not saying what I think. I like Dunkin’ coffee too much.

SANDY HINGSTON is a senior editor at Philadelphia magazine.