The holidays of our lives

(Near the end, there will be a hunky male model wearing nothing but a Halloween jockstrap. A warning in case you’d prefer to avoid a holiday men’s underwear discussion.)

Yesterday’s Zippy features a Dingburg-local idiomatic holiday:


Of course, I immediately went to sources to discover what was celebrated on October 26th. Well, not only is October National Pumpkin Month, the 26th is the day specifically devoted to the fruit of Cucurbita pepo, this orange squash / gourd / melon / cucurbit: National Pumpkin Day. The day ushers in the Pumpkin Season, which is prefigured by a period in which pumpkin spice erupts as a ubiquitous descriptor of foods and much more (see my 10/20/17 posting “A processed food flavor”); which embraces a number of Halloween-specific cultural practices and symbols (jack-o-lanterns, dressing up in costumes, and trick-or-treating, plus witches and black cats as symbols — and orange and black as a decorative theme); and which is culinarily realized in pumpkin pie as a holiday food for Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.

So pumpkin pie can last you from mid-October to early January. Meanwhile, some riffs on the cartoon and some on edible pumpkiniana.

Formulaic language. Rich in the cartoon.

In the first panel, the bed-making and -lying-in-it idiom (akin to a proverb), with many variants in its details, for example, “You’ve made your bed, and now you must lie in it” — conveying that you have to accept the unpleasant consequences of your actions.

From the AHD Dictionary of Idioms:

make one’s bed and lie in it: Suffer the consequences of one’s actions. For example, It’s unfortunate that it turned out badly, but Sara made her bed and now she must lie in it. The earliest English citation for this oft-repeated proverb is in Gabriel Harvey’s Marginalia (c. 1590): “Let them . . . go to their bed, as themselves shall make it.” The idiom alludes to times when a permanent bed was a luxury, and most people had to stuff a sack with straw every night for use as a bed. There are equivalents in French, German, Danish, and many other languages.

Then in the title of the strip, “Quilt complex”, a bed-making play (significantly turning on orthography) on the guilt-complex idiom (from a rather formal, semi-technical register. From AHD:

noun guilt complex: an obsession with the idea of having done wrong: they have a guilt complex when it comes to alcohol

And in the third panel, a play (“Am I regressing yet?”) on “Are we having fun yet?” as a famous Zippy catchphrase, played with repeatedly in the strip. See my 8/31/10 posting “Dingburgers having fun”.

Then in the second panel, a different sort of formulaic expression, titles (in this case, of books). From my 12/22/16 posting “A show about nothingness”, Jean-Paul Sarte’s book Being and Nothingness (“a box of being”, “your nothingness”). And then from Wikipedia:

Nausea (French: La Nausée) is a philosophical novel by the existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, published in 1938. It is Sartre’s first novel and, in his opinion, one of his best works.

The novel takes place in ‘Bouville’ (literally, ‘Mud town’) a town similar to Le Havre, and it concerns a dejected historian, who becomes convinced that inanimate objects and situations encroach on his ability to define himself, on his intellectual and spiritual freedom, evoking in the protagonist a sense of nausea.

The food holidays. Somewhat overheated copy from the National Day Calendar site:

By October 26th, we in a frenzy of pumpkin obsession. We cannot wait for the big November holiday for pumpkin pie. No siree, we need pumpkin everything! Bars, cookies, coffee, cheesecake, pasta and oatmeal. Pumpkin Chunkin’, pumpkin patches, festivals, bake-offs and television specials. Let’s not forget jack-o-lantern carving, too! This fruit grabs American’s attention.

It turns out that October 26th is also National Mincemeat Day. An embarrassment of riches. From NOAD:

noun mincemeat: 1 chiefly British a mixture of currants, raisins, sugar, apples, candied citrus peel, spices, and suet, typically baked in a pie. 2 minced meat.

noun minceBritish something minced, especially mincemeat: put the mince on a dish.

More detail on mincemeat from Wikipedia:

(#2) Sunset Magazine‘s mincemeat pie, with a lattice top crust

Mincemeat is a mixture of chopped dried fruit, distilled spirits and spices, and sometimes beef suet, beef, or venison. Originally, mincemeat always contained meat. Many modern recipes contain beef suet, though vegetable shortening is sometimes used in its place. Variants of mincemeat are found in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, northern Europe, Ireland, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States. In other contexts mincemeat refers to minced or ground meat [primarily beef].

English recipes from the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries describe a mixture of meat and fruit used as a pie filling. These early recipes included vinegars and wines, but by the 18th century, distilled spirits, frequently brandy, were being used instead. The use of spices like clove, nutmeg, mace and cinnamon was common in late medieval and renaissance meat dishes. The increase of sweetness from added sugars, and those produced from fermentation, made mincemeat less a savoury dinner course and helped to direct its use toward desserts. [The spirits, spices, and sugars all serve to preserve meat.]

… In the mid to late eighteenth century, mincemeat in Europe had become associated with old fashioned, rural, or homely foods. Victorian England rehabilitated the preparation as a traditional Yuletide treat. [The custom spread to the US, and extended itself from Christmas to ebrce American Thanksgiving as well.]

About the Sunset recipe, from the ABC News site:

This version of the traditional British pie leaves out the beef so the fruit can shine, but still includes suet (beef fat) for a rich taste and texture — although you can use butter instead if you like.

The filling has Gala apples, dried apricots, figs, or prunes, golden raisins, currants; chopped beef suet or unsalted butter; brown sugar, brandy; lemon zest, lemon juice, orange zest, allspice, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, salt.

The natural end development of mincemeat eliminates even the suet (so that mincemeat has no meat in it; mincemeat is then just  label, not even a partial  description). This is now probably the most common version of mincemeat in the UK and the US; commercial mincemeats in jars are almost all meatless. As here:


Enough of mincemeat, back to pumpkin. Pumpkin pie (which will be with us for over two more months) led me to an assortment of recipes for things called pumpkin bars: in particular, Paula Deen’s recipe on the Food Network site: and “Paul’s Pumpkin Bars” on the allrecipes site. They’re very similar; both are rectangles of risen pumpkin cake (similar to carrot cake or applesauce cake). Deen’s bars:

(#4) Ingredients: eggs, sugar, oil, canned pumpkin (puree), flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt; with cream cheese frosting

The noun bar here refers to the rectangular shape of the food:

noun bar: 1 [a] a long rod or rigid piece of wood, metal, or similar material, typically used as an obstruction, fastening, or weapon. [b] an amount of food or another substance formed into a regular narrow block: a bar of chocolate | gold bars… (NOAD)

(Food bars with sides of equal length are often called, unsurprisingly, squares.)

My 10/9/18 posting “Fruit bars” takes us into the complexities of the categories within the larger domain of sweet food: The lemon bars there are something between COOKIE and CAKE, while the apricot bars (also called squares and (crisp) cookies) there are pretty clearly in the COOKIE category. Meanwhile, the pumpkin bars above seem to fall squarely in the CAKE category. All of these bars are rectangular finger food, rather than fork food, but differ in height.

[Digression: They are all different from the things referred to as candy bars, in ways that aren’t yet clear to me. From Wikipedia:

A candy bar is a type of sugar confectionery [in the category CANDY] that is in the shape of a bar. … A candy bar frequently, though not necessarily, includes chocolate ]

Pumpkin bars are closely related to carrot cake and applesauce cake. And in some ways, to American coffee cake and crumb cake. From Wikipedia:

Coffee cake is cake intended to be eaten with, or flavored with, coffee. British coffee cake is a sponge flavoured with coffee. They are generally round and consist of two layers separated by coffee flavoured butter icing, which also covers the top of the cake. Walnuts are a common addition to coffee cakes. In the United States, coffee cake generally refers to a sweet cake intended to be eaten with coffee or tea (like tea cake).

Coffee cakes, as an accompaniment for coffee, are often single layer, flavored with either fruit or cinnamon, and leavened with either baking soda (or baking powder), which results in a more cake-like texture, or yeast, which results in a more bread-like texture.

… American coffee cake: A variety of crumb cake (Streuselkuchen) which contains flour, sugar, butter and cinnamon granules on top

From NOAD:

noun streusel: [a] a crumbly topping or filling made from fat, flour, sugar, and often cinnamon. [b] a cake or pastry with a streusel topping [crumb cake]. ORIGIN from German Streusel, from streuen ‘sprinkle’.

As if the scene weren’t already quite complex, there’s a category distinction between CAKE and (sweet) BREAD. I’ll start with banana bread, because of its intriguing history. From Wikipedia:

Banana bread is a type of bread [served in slices] made from mashed bananas. It is often a moist, sweet, cake-like quick bread; however, there are some banana bread recipes that are traditional-style raised breads.

… Banana bread first became a standard feature of American cookbooks with the popularization of baking soda and baking powder in the 1930s. It appeared in Pillsbury’s 1933 Balanced Recipes cookbook, and later gained more acceptance with the release of the original Chiquita Banana’s Recipe Book in 1950.

National Banana Bread day is 23 February. Bananas appeared in the US in the 1870s and it took a while for them to appear as ingredient items for desserts. The modern banana bread recipe began being published in cookbooks around the 1930s and its popularity was greatly helped by the introduction of baking powder on the market.

Similarly, carrot bread, zucchini bread, and, yes, pumpkin bread. From Wikipedia:

(#5) Pumpkin walnut bread

Pumpkin bread is a type of moist quick bread made with pumpkin. The pumpkin can be cooked and softened before being used or simply baked with the bread (using canned pumpkin renders it a simpler dish to prepare). Additional ingredients include nuts (such as walnuts), and raisins.

Pumpkin bread is usually baked in a rectangular loaf pan, and is often cooked in late fall when fresh pumpkins are available. It can also be made from canned pumpkin, resulting in a stronger pumpkin taste.

The orange pouch. As Halloween approaches, I leave the wonderful world of pumpkin food for another piece of Halloween mail that came yesterday, from the Daily Jocks company: “Spooky Mystery Underwear!”:

(#6) Offering “DJ Halloween Mystery Underwear Multipacks”

The shot is re-used from an early DJ ad (for 2eros underwear), featured in my 6/21/18 posting “Up in the air, sky-high, sky-high”, where it’s #1. Admirable though the young man is, the focus of yesterday’s ad was the orange pouch of his jockstrap. Halloween orange. Which, it turns out, is a thing:

(#7) From the Colour Lovers site

The color is not quite the same as Princeton Orange (FF8F00 in hex), Princeton being complicatedly connected to William III of Orange (the William of William and Mary 1688 and all that) and the House of Orange-Nassau. As for jockstraps, these modern items postdate the Glorious Revolution by a couple of centuries.

Meanwhile, my pumpkin mail mounts up. It’s that time of year.

2 Responses to “The holidays of our lives”

  1. chrishansenhome Says:

    Pumpkin pie is mostly unknown here in the UK, and when people here taste it, they normally hate it. It’s very much like Marmite to USans.

    In my misspent youth, squash pie was the norm rather than pumpkin — probably a New England regional preference.

    I have made squash, pumpkin, and regular-sized mince pies here. The usual mince pie here is what you might call a “tart”. It’s around 3-4″ in diameter, with shortcrust pastry and sprinkled with sugar. The filling is kind of sparse, leaving a lot of space between the top crust and the mincemeat.

    My mother used to make a mince pie for a friend each Thanksgiving and Christmas as the friend hated mincemeat (she was Irish) but her husband loved mince pie. So she made an apple pie for my mother and they traded.

  2. [BLOG] Some Sunday links | A Bit More Detail Says:

    […] Zwicky ruminates about late October holidays and their food, Hallowe’en not being the only […]

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