tbo: Tampa Bay Online.
Friday, Oct 19, 2018
  • Home

Pumpkin spice haters, back off: It’s okay to crave the seasonal flavor

All right, okay, enough, I get it: You all hate pumpkin spice.

But Iíve got one request as we head into fall: Can you just let us have this?

There are many things on which to heap anger and despair right now, but please, that thing does not need to be a personís affection for an autumnal coffee drink.

A lot of people love pumpkin spice, and the flavor has worked its way into just about every food group. Thatís why it has become so maligned. Our culture loves a good backlash, and pumpkin spice quickly became too basic, too ubiquitous to be cool for long. Like brunch and selfies, pumpkin spice is the perfect punching bag for cynics who canít understand why anyone would like a little whimsy with their caffeine.

And it gets worse every year. The earlier Starbucks releases its Pumpkin Spice Latte, the more internet diatribes declare the decline of civilization. Calling the drink its "most popular seasonal beverage of all time," Starbucks released it Aug. 28 this year, no doubt driven by insane demand.

Frank Bruni, a columnist for the New York Times, wrote in 2017 a piece comparing pumpkin spice to all that ills this country:

"(Pumpkin spice) is invention run amok, marketing gone mad, the odoriferous emblem of commercialism without compunction or bounds."

You know what? Pumpkin spice is also fun! Itís silly! Itís festive!

Haters, itís time to let the hard feelings go. Please let us pumpkin spice lovers have this.

We know thereís no actual pumpkin in many of these products.

We know itís a marketing scheme.

We donít care.

Oh, and can we stop with the semantics? No one is implying there is a spice called "pumpkin," or that everything labeled as such is supposed to contain any amount of real, live pumpkin, which tastes like squash. "Pumpkin spice" is most likely short for "pumpkin pie spice," which is definitely a thing, a mixture of warm spices like nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon.

RECIPE FOR FALL: Speaking of fall spices, try this recipe for Cinnamon Clove Coffee Cake

Pumpkin spice represents that which all manufactured markers of the holiday season do: comfort, joy, nostalgia. It brings with it a longing for holidays past, for cozy family gatherings and fragrant roasting turkeys. It, along with plastic pumpkins and bales of hay you can buy at Walmart, signifies the shift from summer to a more pleasant time of year.

And nowhere do we need it more than in Florida.

Bruni, in that New York Times column, also said this:

"Itís the transformation of an illusion ó there isnít any spice called pumpkin, nor any pumpkin this spicy ó into a reality."

For those of us who live here, a seasonless state that still stocks fur-lined boots in its department stores every year, the illusion of pumpkin spice has come to represent fall itself.

Itís how we are able to feel part of that collective national shift to a new season, even when temperatures remain exactly the same until January. It means being able to justify a scarf in 75-degree weather.

I will probably never buy pumpkin spice-flavored cereal, but its very existence on grocery store shelves makes me smile, a sweet annual reminder that my favorite season is just around the corner.

Sure, itís manufactured. Thatís okay.

After all, if youíre going to bemoan pumpkin spice, a make-believe marker of a certain time of year, then Iím sorry, but youíre going to have to cancel Santa, too.

Weather Center