The months of October through December are what I like to call “pumpkin pie season”. It usually starts with using the innards of the pumpkins after the pumpkin carving for Halloween is finished, having pumpkin pies for Thanksgiving Day and ending with the Christmas Eve and Christmas Day dinners. Of course, those are American traditions, traditions I’ve had difficulty following.
Believe it or not, pumpkins do exist in the Philippines. Although a pumpkin is considered a winter squash just like the kalabasa, they’re not the same. Back in 2009, there were real pumpkins in Manila, so I’m not making this up. Unfortunately, that’s metro Manila and I’m not going to metro Manila in search of pumpkins no matter how much I would like to have real pumpkins to cook with (and making jack-o’-lanterns with what’s left).
I’ve never heard of pumpkins being sold in Olongapo City and that’s probably one of the reasons why Halloween is so boring here. I often wonder why local farmers don’t grow pumpkins when they grow kalabasa and it’s evident that they would definitely sell.
Canned Pumpkin Filling
When it comes to getting seasonal foodstuff, I must have the worst luck in the world. Every year, I look for pumpkin pie filling in November. I think it’s because I’m thinking ahead to Thanksgiving Day. I should be looking for it in October.
Every time I stop at the Royal Subic store at the Subic Bay Freeport Zone, from mid-November through mid-January, there are a whole lot of turkeys for sale at premium prices. I have no place to store even one of the large turkeys, so I usually end up getting a couple of young turkeys mere days before cooking them.
I also look for pumpkin pie filling at that time and I can never find any. I think it’s a lack of timing. There are certain food items that sell out before I make my rounds. The people that do the inventorying and ordering seem to be clueless about stocking up on things like this ahead of time.
Alternatives to Pumpkin Pie
A plain custard pie is out of the question. The Filipino dish, leche plan, is pretty close to what a custard pie tastes like, but without the pie crust. Of course it’s not the same thing or it would be called the same thing (in the local language instead of English, of course).
If push comes to shove and I can’t get any pumpkin pie filling, I guess I can attempt my hand at sweet potato pie. I’m not sure if they grow sweet potatoes or yams here (like I really know the difference), but at least one or the other is readily available year-round.
There are imported, ready-made pies available at times (Sara Lee, I think), but I haven’t seen the kind of pies I want and I’m not fond of the local pies. Making my own pies, regardless of what ingredients I use, are always better than what the bakeries make. All I need are pumpkin pie or sweet potato pie recipes and I’m all set.
I’m craving pumpkin pie badly right now. God help the person who gets in my way when I spot pumpkin anything between now and Christmas Day.
[Originally published in October, 2010]