I started to write this as a parody of those rambling food blogs but you are busy and so am I so I will get straight to the point: eating Trader Joe’s Pumpkin O’s (rhymes with “neutrinos”) is like filling your mouth with rocks.

They will leave the roof of your mouth bruised and sore for days. Like when you eat pizza that’s too hot and burn the roof of your mouth..only WORSE.

As I ate my first bowl of these, all I could think of was the legend of the Greek orator Demosthenes, who was said to overcome a speech impediment by filling his mouth with pebbles and trying to speak. A contemporary Demosthenes would have no need of igneous rocks. He could just pop in a handful of these Pumpkin O’s and shout it out. Try it. I dare you.

Now, just to back up a bit, and get in some more pumpkin jokes, fall means many things: the crisp crunch of autumn leaves underfoot, a cool snap to the air, and the arrival of the annual Pumpkin Festival, which will last clear until January.

Somehow or other, retailers nationwide have decided that the American public is madly in love with the taste of pumpkin and spices associated with pumpkin, and sales figures show they are not incorrect. Aside from Starbucks ubiquitous Pumpkin Spice Latte (joined this year by pumpkin foam cold brew), Trader Joe’s is one of the sacred places of the Pumpkin Festival, as they have just rolled out dozens of seasonal items, all saturated with REAL pumpkin (or squash, which tastes almost identical to pumpkin in this context.)

Since the great Carb Scares of the turn of the century, I’ve avoided any breakfast cereals aside from oatmeal, lovely soft, gushy comfortable oatmeal. But I like the taste of pumpkin and I recently remembered the lesson of my Grandma Ilene: for a busy New Yorker, sometimes a dinner consisting of a bowl of cereal is perfectly acceptable,

But these Pumpkin O’s! Even doused with a liberal cup of almond milk and blueberries…they left my poor palette ravaged. I am not exaggerating when I say that my entire mouth was sore the next day after eating these.

It was sore for two days!!!

For the next bowl, I a) left the box open a bit hoping that the latent climatic moisture would soften them up, like it does everything else in life, and b) I left them soaking in almond milk for 15 minutes before trying to eat them.

Although their flinty texture yielded a bit,  it was not enough. I am sitting here and telling you that my mouth hurts! These Pumpkin O’s are torture to eat! Whoever devised them is a cruel and heedless master.

And they taste more like Pumpkin Spice Cardboard.

The trouble seems to be that the main ingredient is brown rice, which gives you crucial fibre, and can be eaten by people on the go who are terrified of carbs and gluten alike, as brown rice is one of those friendly carbs that only sticks on your ass and not your entire bloated body. But it is also a harsh, fibrous material, one hostile to milk and relentless where the soft palate is concerned.

But there is NOTHING friendly about Pumpkin O’s. They are a terrible danger. If LIzzie Borden were alive today she wouldn’t bother taking a hatchet to her parents. She would just pelt them with Pumpkin O’s, shredding their flesh to ribbons.

What happened at the Dyatlov Pass? Someone had brought along a box of Pumpkin O’s and the hikers were forced to flee their tents in alarm.

In trying to eat this cereal I was reminded of the lessons taught me by my Grandma Dorothy, who was a health enthusiast who fed us all kinds of high fibre cereals. I doubtless owe the glasslike surface of my digestive system to this diet, but I soon learned that shredded wheat was not my friend and came to fear the sight of a box of Grape Nuts.

Grape Nuts – an ancient cereal blend that had the texture of whatever is at the bottom of your fish tank – would never soften up. But it was still nowhere near the agony of Pumpkin O’s.

While normally we don’t review breakfast cereals here at The Beat, I felt the greater good had to be served. I had to warn people. This breakfast is brutal. Stick to oatmeal if you know what’s good for you!




  1. As a kid I loved any sweet cereal, but haven’t been able to eat Captain Crunch in years. I pretty much stick to corn flakes with bananas or Raisin Bran (even if the raisins are worth about 3 points in the 23 I’m allowed by Weight Watchers each day). While I’ll admit to looking forward to Starbuck’s annual roll out of Pumpkin Spice, I can’t bring myself to try any of the beers flavored with that particular item.

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