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‘I need something really important for my birthday party, gran,’ said granddaughter 3 (almost eleven) on the phone. She’d been a bit deflated after the first year 6 Sats test and her mum had suggested she focus on her birthday that Friday. She continued: ‘I really need a tin of pumpkin puree for my sleepover party,’ What? Good grief, I wasn’t expecting that. But she’d researched it on the internet and apparently Waitrose is the go-to place for pumpkin puree and there’s one down the road from us, though I don’t go there much.
But grandchildren are great for involving us oldies in new projects, aren’t they? So I pottered along the road pondering on life and pumpkin puree. Soon I was gazing in bewilderment at the array of tins in Waitrose’s canned veg section. There was Epicure Organic Bijoux Verts Lentils, Waitrose Duchy Organic Chopped tomatoes in Natural Juice, yes, and the rest – but, oh dear, pumpkin puree was there none. I ventured into the fruit puree/pie filling section, but a pumpkin is a vegetable, isn’t it? But pumpkin pie is a pudding – I felt a bit confused; it doesn’t take much these days.
I spied an assistant in a stripey apron. ‘Oh no, madam,’ she said, ‘we only stock pumpkin puree in the autumn.’ Oh god, for Halloween, I suppose. ‘But it was on the internet,’ I bleated, ‘so I’d like to order it, please,’ I added a bit more firmly – it was Waitrose after all. ‘I’m sorry, madam, but it won’t be available for four months,’ came the reply. Disaaaaster! She saw my face. ‘But you could use butternut squash instead,’ she said helpfully. Oh blimey, could I? I’ve never got to grips with a butternut squash. ‘You’ll find them in the vegetable section and we have chopped butternut squash in the frozen section.’ Well, there was your bog standard butternut squash and your organic butternut squash, of course – but hell’s teeth, you’d have to cut them open, scrape them out, boil them up and smash them all to pieces as those Martians from the 60s Smash ad used to chortle.
Then I had a light bulb moment and headed for the baby food – oh yes, I’ve chatted to a few earnest mums in my time who were spooning globules of beige butternut goo from a jar into their babies’ mouths. But, oh my, baby food has moved on apace and is now sold in squidgy metal foil packets like energy drinks. But what’s this? Eureka! one with sweet potato, apple, blueberries and 20% pumpkin! I put it in my basket – well, 20% is a start. But desperation was setting in so I got a packet of Waitrose Essential (well, I’ve survived more or less intact without it up till now) Butternut Squash as well.
Then I remembered an organic deli up the road which was worth a shot so I hopped on a bus. Although the deli had chia seeds and quinoa (I should take granddaughter 2 there – she’s gone vegetarian you know, and doesn’t do things by half), but there was not a whiff of pumpkin or the puree thereof therein. Crossing the road I went into a small supermarket just in case. Hurraaaah, a packet of Caribbean pumpkin soup – yes, with garlic and chillis in it – hmm, it would’ve helped if I knew what granddaughter 3 was going to make. But hey ho, I might as well cover all eventualities so I bought a packet too. Nearly home, I couldn’t not look in Tesco Metro – they might just have a tin of pumpkin puree. But they didn’t.
Back at home I stuck ‘replacement for pumpkin puree’ into Google. Bless my soul, there was even a Jamie Oliver forum which said you could use butternut squash instead of pumpkin and anything to do with Jamie is gospel with my daughter’s lot. And did you know, in some countries butternut squash is called pumpkin too? And pumpkin, aka cucurbita (f. Lat.) is a genus of herbaceous vine in the gourd family. Well, you live and learn. Those Waitrose assistants certainly know their stuff – maybe they have product replacement seminars. I phoned granddaughter 3 with the info. ‘By the way,’ I said, ‘what are you making for your sleepover party?’ ‘Pumpkin spice lattes,’ she replied ‘you know, gran, with coffee, cinnamon and nutmeg.’ Bloody nora, I didn’t know and I like to think I’m a bit of a coffee buff. But coffee and pumpkin? Hm, who came up with that? They must be raving mad, I was thinking. But no, apparently it’s all the rage at Starbucks and they’re not daft. But to me it smacked of a ruse to pad out the drink, save money on the coffee, sell it as a health drink and get you to pay through the nose – but I’m a grumpy old grouch. But maybe Waitrose needs to get on trend – pumpkin spice latte is probably now one of your five-a-day fruit and veg the government tells us to eat for healthy living.
Granddaughter 3 made the butternut squash spice latte (with 20% pumpkin puree), using homemade cinnamon and nutmeg syrup and a dollop of squirty cream on top. It was a huge success so I’ve decided to stop being an old fuddy duddy and follow her lead, after all there seems to be a big wide world of lattes out there. For example, in the paper the other day there there was an entire article devoted to turmeric latte with no coffee in it at all – ‘2016’s drink of choice’ it said. Hm, that’s a latte too far for me.
*Granny on the frontline is Jill Garner, grandmother of six.