Though hard to believe, September is here and pretty soon we’ll be trading our flip-flops for boots, shorts for jeans and tank tops for flannels. It’s also time for the store shelves to become en-“gourd”-ged with pumpkin spice products.
Much like the holiday shopping season, pumpkin spice season seems to arrive earlier every year. While the rest of us are sweltering in the summer humidity, there is a segment of the population with a pumpkin spice blood type who count down the days until the release of a national coffee chain’s seasonal drink.
I am not one of them.
Don’t get me wrong. I am all for the traditional wide slab of warm-from-the-oven pumpkin pie with a hefty dollop of RediWhip. What I don’t understand is the need to flavor nearly every edible product — from salsa to Spam (yes, the canned cooked pork) — with pumpkin spice.
Starbucks launched the craze when it released its pumpkin spice latte 17 years ago. In the time since, the drink has developed somewhat of a cult following among pumpkin spice devotees.
In fact, this year the coffee chain began serving the seasonal drink — also known as PSL (an acronym I mistook for Paul Sawyier [Public] Library) — on Aug. 25, the earliest release date yet.
Though I have never tried a pumpkin spice latte, I have no beef with it. I figure since it’s in such high demand every year, it probably tastes good.
What grinds my gears are the bandwagon followers who have inundated the shelves with pumpkin spice products. Quite frankly, there should be usage limits on this spice.
For instance, I think we can all agree that there is just no need for pumpkin spice pancakes, Peeps, popcorn, pudding and Pringles.
And I have never felt such strong betrayal as I did the moment I saw Pumpkin Spice Twinkies, PopTarts and MoonPies. Et tu, Brute?
Even alcoholic beverage companies are getting a piece of the action, hoping to lure PS blood types to the hard stuff. Bailey’s recently introduced a pumpkin spice liqueur. Captain Morgan released Jack-O’Blast Pumpkin Spice Rum, and, in addition to beers, the liquor store shelves are stocked with Pumpkin Spice Kahlua and Vive Pumpkin Spice Spiked Sparkling Water Hard Seltzer.
Spoiler alert: Despite the obnoxious orange packaging and the usage of the word “pumpkin,” most of these products do not actually contain the winter squash, but rather spices usually found in pumpkin pie — allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.
These spices smell fantastic congealing in a piecrust at 350 degrees, but who wants to smell like a seasonal dessert? That’s right, Pumpkin-scented soaps, lotions, body sprays and lip balm are a thing.
There is even pumpkin-scented deodorant. Which should come in handy for pumpkin spice lattee aficionados sweating it out in the Starbucks drive-thru line during these dog days of summer.
Chanda Veno is managing editor at The State Journal. She can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org