A Special Treat: “Jack-O-Lantern-Of-All-Trades,” by Johnny Roccia, age 17

My grandmother (with whom I briefly lived at 17) was cleaning out her attic and came upon a printed essay that I wrote in high school. I have no idea what the assignment was, but the essay itself was complete and intact and I am reproducing it here in its entirety. More than half my life ago, these were the words I put to paper. Enjoy.


This morning I accidentally ate a can of processed pumpkin.

That’s right, I looked in my food cabinet, desperately searching for the fabled “midnight snack,” when amongst all of the possible edible foodstuffs, I spotted a can (clearly labeled “Pumpkin” with a picture of a piece of pumpkin pie) that I’m sure any 17-year-old male would think would contain something vaguely consumable at 12:46 A.M.

The picture of a pumpkin pie was, I will claim until my dying breath, the most flagrant piece of false advertising ever devised by the advertising industry (which is full of executives who, incidentally, now fill my dreams as highly skilled practitioners of the art of getting shot at). This picture was clearly designed to fool the unwary into thinking that the substance contained within would serve as a viable option for those seeking nourishment. This was not the case.

This illusion, however, was furthered by the fact that the matter I was represented with upon opening the can looked like, I kid you not, pumpkin pie! That’s right, it appeared in every way to be the filling of your average grandmother’s Thanksgiving dessert. And so, bravely assaulting this can with a most vorpal spoon, I triumphantly shoveled a large pile of the stuff into my food-hole.

And I nearly threw up. This was perhaps the most revolting thing my mouth had ever contained (and I was once the receiver of the fine privilege of consuming a large quantity of pork fat), and I barely choked it down (it was, in fact, not pumpkin pie filling at all, you see, but rather a fully processed cooking ingredient composed of 85% pure pumpkin and 15% yuck). But our story continued, for you see, I did it again. Now, you’re probably thinking, “Why would this moron go and do such a thing?” Well, just to prove I can read your thoughts, I shall tell you. You see, I was fully under the impression that the first spoonful was simply the “bad stuff” that had settled to the top, and the rest, as I ate my way lower, would surely taste like that sweet, sweet pie I salivated for (this is a perfect example of how 17-year-old males think at 12:46 A.M…. or at any other time, for that matter).

The next bite did not, in fact, taste any better than the first.

And neither did the rest of the can (which, yes, I ate).

For you to fully appreciate the disgust one feels at eating a full can of pumpkin, I offer the following experience for you to try. Next Halloween, as you go trick-or-treating, take a large bite out of each Jack-o-Lantern you see. By the end of the night, I think you’ll feel roughly the same as I did. You will, be warned, throw up quite a lot that night (it amazed me on that night that one who has only 40 oz. of food, all pumpkin, in his stomach would possibly throw up 17.2 times his own body mass).

And so, in conclusion, I wish to offer up this advice, may it be placed in the annals of history alongside the words of the great Socrates and his ilk: A great way to feel better about yourself is to throw a dinner party for a bunch of executives in the advertising industry, and for dessert, serve them a pie made of crust filled with the contents of a can of pumpkin. Then shoot at them.

Incidentally, I checked later – the can of pumpkin had been expired for two years when I ate it.

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