Chart of the day, pumpkin edition

October 15, 2012
a short piece about pumpkin in the latest issue of New York magazine.

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I have a short piece about pumpkin in the latest issue of New York magazine, trying to work out why has started to become almost as ubiquitous as bacon at this time of year. After all, bacon is delicious; pumpkin, not so much.

The secret, it turns out, is in the semiotics. No one ever feels virtuous eating bacon, but pumpkin has connotations of locavorism, as well as warmth, and sweetness, and family, and the toasty colors of fall. And yet the pumpkin in “pumpkin” dishes is even less healthy than the bacon in bacon dishes: it’s mainly sugar, along with autumnal spices like cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Partly because few of us ever eat pumpkin straight, the taste of pumpkin in the public mind has basically just become a sugar-and-spice combo.

Which helps explain the chart. Pumpkin is found mainly in desserts (lots of sugar), and beverages (lots of sugar). A venti Pumpkin Spice Latte at Starbucks runs 470 calories — that’s double the 240 calories in an identically-sized 20-ounce bottle of Coca-Cola. Or, to put it another way, it’s the same number of calories that you find in seventeen rashers of bacon. Would that Starbucks were selling out of the stuff. (It isn’t.)


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