As a child, I dabbled in the autumnal pumpkin trend: a chunk of homemade pumpkin bread to pay homage to fall, the classic slice of pumpkin pie I’d whip up with Mom on Thanksgiving. My teenage years meant pumpkin bagels smeared with a thick coat of pumpkin cream cheese for breakfast. No, not just once or twice — every Monday through Friday from the first hint of fall until my beloved bagels vanished from any grocery store within a 20-mile radius. And when college came around, the season’s notorious pumpkin beverage, Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte, carried me through the bitter weather and agonizing all-nighters. And yeah, maybe my Uggs helped, too. And my leggings. Fine. I’m that basic white girl who’s obsessed with everything pumpkin-flavored for the two months it’s available at my disposal. But could my basic self handle a five-day pumpkin diet?
So I embark on step one of my mission, making the pilgrimage to the Mecca of all things pumpkin: Trader Joe’s. Pumpkin spice babka. Pumpkin ravioli. Pumpkin tortilla chips dunked in pumpkin salsa (O.K., ew). I collect enough products to feed a small tribe of basic white girls and haul my personal pumpkin patch to the register. To my surprise, the cashier says nothing of the 30 bucks I just spent on a shopping cart bursting with pumpkin products. Honestly, I’m a little pissed, too. I turn to my friend Gabby, who senses my anger. “It’s literally peak pumpkin spice season,” she says. “This is completely normal.”
I initiate the cleanse by treating myself to an overpriced pumpkin pie smoothie from Strong Hearts on the Hill that tastes nothing like what the name suggests. Seriously, did someone just dump a can of pumpkin purée in my cup and give up? While it does have that straight-out-of-the-garden pumpkin flavor, it’s missing the sweet and spicy notes that transform the canned product into a signature fall delicacy. My lackluster first meal spoils my spirits, but I bounce back with The Mission Restaurant’s stunning Mexican rendition of pumpkin tacos for dinner. They may have been $18, but they tasted straight up delicioso. I can definitely live like this for another four days.
Pumpkin pie spice in hand, I’m ready to squash Day Two. Because class lasts all day, I stash an arsenal of pumpkin cereal bars in my backpack and head for campus. They help me power through until about 6:15 p.m., when I make myself a kale salad with chicken and pumpkin dressing, which smacks the sweet tooth right out of my mouth. But I persevere and wrap up the night with some creamy pumpkin Greek yogurt. God. Bless. Trader Joe’s.
Day Three rolls around, and I begin to question my motives. Wasn’t there another less nauseating way I could’ve litmus-tested my basicness? I fill my blender with pumpkin butter, pumpkin pie spice, and other filler ingredients. It doesn’t taste too pumpkin-y. But I must stick to my morals and make it that way. Another glob of pumpkin butter and a few more dashes of spice. By mid-afternoon, I decide to indulge in my first PSL of the season. Despite all the pumpkin I stuff down my throat, the warm beverage envelops me in comfort. Perhaps it’s nostalgia — according to marketing experts, the scent and flavor reminds Americans of things like home and family, likely due to the Thanksgiving tradition of pumpkin pie. Or maybe it’s so effing cold outside that a venti swamp water latte would suffice. For dinner, I force down some pumpkin gnocchi and another too sweet salad. Two more days. You can do this.
I begin to wonder if my skin tone resembles that of Donald Trump. And at this point, I’ve lost all incentive for meal creativity. I repeat the previous day’s meals but with the enthusiasm of someone on a diet. Oh wait, that’s me! In an attempt to make a joke about my condition, my not-so-clever mother asks if I’ve ever heard of Peter, Peter pumpkin eater. Yes, mom — that is what I have become.
The last day arrives and I’m feeling quite lethargic, due to either a pumpkin martini hangover or a pumpkin pie hangover, but realistically both. I power through, starting with some pumpkin butter breakfast quinoa. Much to my dismay, I must load on the pumpkin to give my meal any flavor. Damn you, quinoa. The last supper is more salad and pumpkin soup, which delivered the most genuine pumpkin flavor.
Eating like a basic white girl for five full days? Anything but basic. Because of my limited meal options and my eventual disgust of all things pumpkin, I think I ate less. In retrospect, I can’t complain. I’ve experienced worse — but let’s just say I won’t be looking at, much less eating, any pumpkin until next Thanksgiving.