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It's time to celebrate the Great Pumpkin

By James Healy (China Daily) Updated: 2015-09-21 07:59

Now that the heat of summer has relented and autumn graces us once more with its gentle presence, let's talk pumpkins.

In my home country of the United States, alas, the pumpkin gets its due only at this time of year, although with a big splash.

Among the most heartwarming examples of Americana is the animated It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, a 1966 TV special that airs every year in October and explores the character Linus' obsession with the mythical Great Pumpkin.

"Each year," Linus says with a conviction shared by absolutely no one else, "the Great Pumpkin rises out of the pumpkin patch that he thinks is the most sincere ... and brings toys to all the children of the world."

Although the legendary pumpkin is ubiquitous in China, its use in the West, particularly in North America where it originated, is much more varied.

The results are often more delectable, too - from pancakes and bread (I have the world's best recipe), to pumpkin chocolate chip cookies and muffins, to cheesecake and mousse.

Furthermore, a Thanksgiving or Christmas feast isn't complete without pumpkin pie, a time-honored tradition in which cinnamon and nutmeg work magic together, and which no red-blooded American can do without.

And so in China, where pumpkins are plentiful year-round, a flight of fancy takes off: With President Xi Jinping's first state visit to the United States just around the corner, in magnificent autumn, what better way to improve US-China ties than with a bilateral celebration of this wonderful fall squash?

Xi and US President Barack Obama could find common ground, quite literally, while choosing worthy candidates at a pumpkin patch, where the gigantic gourds pass their days on the vine until plump and ready to be picked.

They could be just like eyes-agog schoolkids choosing proper "punkies" they'll take home to carve into customized "jack-o'-lanterns" - the hollowed-out pumpkins with ghoulishly carved faces that, when lit at night with candles or flashlights, create an eerie ambience on the bewitching holiday of Halloween.

Imagine the rapport-building levity as the distinguished, often somber leaders of the world's top two economies giggle while carving cartoonish faces that resemble their favorite world leaders and, like kids across the US, teasingly fling seeds and raw pumpkin pulp at each other.

Then they could move to the kitchen table and sample the wonders that both China and the US have worked with this most versatile of fruits (China's pumpkin soups and porridges are simply unrivaled).

After all, if the common Western saying that the way to a man's heart is through his stomach holds true, then maybe a warm slice of pumpkin pie or a bowl of piping-hot pumpkin soup with a dollop of cream might forever change the course of world events.

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