By Laura Richards
As a lifelong New Englander and lover of all things autumn, I cherish the first glimpses of green leaves with a hint of yellow and orange. And I feel absolutely giddy when I see the first offering of the ubiquitous pumpkin spice latte (or PSL to those in the know). Some are downright obsessed with anything pumpkin spice flavored or scented as it means fall is finally on its way and, yes, I will admit that I am one of those people.
Even though the official start of fall isn’t until late September, pumpkin spice season seems to creep up earlier and earlier. This year it was late August when the ads started running with some places respecting the end of summer and not starting to serve PSL’s until September 1. A quick Google search will give you dates of every major coffee chain in the country and when they release their first pumpkin spice-flavored coffee and lattes. And it’s not just drinks we’re talking here, we’ve got pumpkin spice donuts, muffins, bagels, and more.
I saw a few dismayed Facebook friends post about the early arrival of pumpkin spice season and, in particular, the new pumpkin spice Cheerios with a “just NO” written next to it claiming that it will land on the clearance rack because no one will want it. I want it! Another Facebooker said her daughter thinks that pumpkin spice tastes like “dirt and vegetables.” As a gardener, I love both so, yes!
Not all pumpkin-related posts are negative, though. A fellow lover of all things pumpkin spice gleefully posted the photo of a limited edition pumpkin spice instant oatmeal from Quaker. I even saw someone post a photo of pumpkin spice-scented Charmin toilet paper but, upon further investigation, I saw that Charmin itself debunked such a thing by tweeting, “While we love it, we can promise you this. You will not be seeing #PumpkinSpice Charmin anytime soon. #StopTheMadness.”
But wait, they said, “while we love it,” so even Charmin loves pumpkin spice and the door has been left open. They do have a chamomile-scented toilet paper so maybe R&D will be discussing this for a future product?
Despite many, like Charmin, wanting to #StopTheMadness of pumpkin spice season, I say bring it! I love it, I love it all. I will happily switch out my regular coffee for a pumpkin spice version, fill my house with pumpkin spice candles and dream about my family’s backsides smelling like pumpkin spice someday because seriously nothing beats this season.
I personally find fall to be a cozy time to break out the sweaters and candles and snuggle up with my family in front of the fireplace. A friend said that the taste and smell of pumpkin spice is a trigger for autumn and that it gives her a warm feeling on those first cool mornings and nights. Another friend said, “It's the ‘smell and taste of fall!’ Once pumpkin spice coffee comes out I can't wait to pull on a hoodie!!” Yet another said it was full of nostalgia for starting school and paired well with the crisp air and colors.
Nothing is better than when my four kids come rolling in from school, open the kitchen door and say, “It smells SO good in here!” because I’ve got a pumpkin spice candle burning or a simmer pot of potpourri on the stove (organic of course, no worries for artificial chemicals or lead wicks, folks). The arrival of pumpkin spice means I’ve got the green light to buy my mums and break out my soup pot. The best season has arrived!
Many consider pumpkin spice to be uncool, appealing to the ignorant masses – and that may be true – but I join them in the love of its taste and smell and I am able to keep up with 99% of the obscure references on the Hulu show “Difficult People” which makes me feel slightly vindicated.
Pumpkin spice represents more than just a flavoring or scent. In the same way that the smell of coconut tanning oil triggers summer memories for many, pumpkin spice is a welcome aroma for those of us who love this season of the year.
So embrace the pumpkin spice train as there’s no stopping it. It’s firmly here to stay. And you may want to watch your backsides in homes of friends who buy Charmin.
by Amber Leventry
I was at Costco a few weeks ago with my twins. I mindlessly grabbed a box of waffles and moved on to the next aisle. As I took a closer look at the box I had just placed in my cart, I groaned. I turned around and huffed my way back to the frozen section to return the tainted Eggos.
“What, Mama? What happened?” my son asked.
“Pumpkin spice season happened,” I said. There were no more questions, just my daughter adding, “ew!” to the conversation. Exactly. Ew.
I hate pumpkin spice season – mostly because it’s not a season, but is treated as such. I’m waiting for the pumpkin spice decorations one can hang on the front door, or some sort of PS paraphernalia to adorn the hoods of cars, much like the Rudolph nose at Christmastime. Maybe a wheelbarrow with pumpkins or magnetic ribbons for those who support the mass-produced products which contain varying degrees of actual pumpkin and whatever spices go with it.
That’s another thing: What is it? And how is it equally good in ice cream, coffee, chocolate, kale chips, yogurt, and beer? That is the work of witchcraft.
I don’t like the flavor. I may enjoy a muffin once a year that has some pumpkin scent to it, but I don’t like pumpkin-flavored things. Actually, the only thing pumpkin I like is the little pumpkin candies that the fine people at Brach’s make. I could eat a whole bag of candy corn’s cousin, but not its PS flavor infused evil twin.
To be clear, I hate the game, not the players. I would be a big, fat hypocrite for judging the many people whose taste buds cannot get enough of this flavor. I feel the same way about peanut butter. Get yours. I hate the fact that I am BOMBARDED with all the things turning into pumpkin spice bait for those who feel pressured to get their once-a-year flavor fix. I just want regular waffles. Regular Cheerios. Regular cream cheese. Regular vodka. I don’t have time to verify that my usual staples haven’t been turned into a Thanksgiving side dish.
People get anxious when products are labeled Limited Edition, Seasonal, or Special Edition. No one needs that stress. So why has this become a thing? And why do we need so many options? Do we need pumpkin spice panettone? Are enough people eating the regular, dried fruit-filled panettone bread at Christmas that the shelves need to be stocked in August with bread stuffed with candied pumpkin?
It’s as if pumpkin spice has replaced the natural signs of seasonal shift to indicate fall has arrived. The PS-flavored candy corn would lead me to believe it's not only October but also Halloween. It’s neither. I live in the northeast. The nights are certainly getting cooler, but the leaves are still green here. I have yet to hear the geese honking their way south. And I can still smell the chlorine in the air from the neighbor’s pool. Our snow blowers are being tuned, but it is still summer here in Vermont.
Pumpkin spice signifying fall is like Easter initiating bathing suit season. It’s not right. Apple picking, college football, and the calendar are the true signs of autumn. And when I am stuffing my face with deviled eggs and ham, I don’t want Kohl’s ads to show me the latest trends in bikinis. I am no more ready to let go of summer in August than my doughy, pale belly is ready to walk on the beach in March.
(Okay. My doughy, pale belly is never up to society’s standards for being seen on the beach, but I don’t need the reminder when there is still snow on the ground.)
Speaking of Easter, shame on you Peeps. I will also debate that Easter candy is the best seasonal candy of the year. I love Peeps, but at no other time of the year, and certainly not dipped in white fudge and made to taste like a Yankee Candle. This purist likes her bunnies and chicks in their natural pastel form. Just like I like all seasons, food, and drink – without pumpkin spice.