Boy howdy, we’re barely into fall and pumpkin-flavor season is already in full force. For those of you who haven’t used your noses yet in September, pumpkin-flavor season is that time in the early fall when the leaves turn, the air goes crisp, and every single store that has a product that utilizes a flavor and/or aroma decides to infuse pumpkin into it. Or I should clarify, they infuse pumpkin spice into everything they make, ‘cause let’s be honest, nutmeg is not a dominant pumpkin smell. It’s like saying apples smell like apple pie. That’s just denying cinnamon the credit it deserves.
I blame Starbucks for starting this trend with their annual favorite, the Pumpkin Spice Latte. Too often I’ve seen cracked-out women fidgeting in their Uggs and leggings desperately attempting to restrain themselves from flipping the milk and sugar station over while a scared barista scrambles to bring them their pumpkin-spiced fix. Of course Dunkin Donuts, being the ridiculous flavor infusers they are (blueberry coffee? REALLY?,) got on that train with their all-out #PumpkinAtDunkin blitz, featuring not only lattes but muffins, donuts, donut holes, and coffee. Between the candles, air fresheners, bread, hand soap, shampoo, and car oil this is one quirky trait that has gotten way out of hand (to be fair, I’m not positive Valvoline actually sells a pumpkin spice car oil. Certainly doesn’t taste that way).
The sad thing is, I actually like pumpkin, and pumpkin-related foods. I have to have pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving. I’d say pumpkin seeds top sunflower any day of the week (especially since there’s less work to get to the edible part). And there’s that Thai pumpkin curry that’s simply muy delicioso. Hell, I even enjoy a pumpkin spice latte from time to time. The operative words being “from time to time.”
My problem with the hijacking of a flavor into the sensory overload of the season is that it banks on this idea of more is more. We’ve come to a point in our society where special things can’t arrive quickly enough, we can’t get enough of them, and then we can’t get rid of them soon enough. By the time November rolls around, you’re going to be hearing a lot of “Ugh, pumpkin spice lattes? I had like 200 of those in October alone. If I see another pumpkin I’m gonna puke… I can’t wait for peppermint mocha season to start.”
This is a sentiment I just don’t understand. Granted, I’m on the complete opposite end of the spectrum. I was the kid who had Halloween candy well into the new year because I rationed my supplies, being ever fearful of the time I’d run out. I wanted to always be able to enjoy some candy corn when the feeling struck, which ultimately means I’d end up with stale candy corn come February. I’m kidding of course, as no one actually ever enjoys candy corn (or has any desire to eat it), but you get the picture.
I think the fix for this pumpkin pandemic (I actually don’t know if it’s a global phenom, but I’m OK with sounding ignorant for the sake of good alliteration) is tackle it with a more reserved approach. The flavor of pumpkin is a truly wonderful thing. There’s little doubt in any rational person’s mind about that. What’s that? You don’t like pumpkin? Well, I’m sure that you have a perfectly good reason. Now can you please get back to never talking to me ever again?
What I propose is simple. Limit the amount of pumpkin in your life. Yeah, that takes some discipline. But you’ll never grow tired of pumpkin. And you’ll enjoy the time you do get to spend with pumpkin even more. It will be this special little thing between the two of you. So if you want to bake a delectable pumpkin bread, by all means go for it (especially if you send me some). But when you have a slice for breakfast, don’t wash it down with a pumpkin coffee.
And if you like your pumpkin coffee (or yes, even lattes), then have them, but have them every once in a while. Keep in mind you literally went an entire year without drinking them all the time. You’ll be OK drinking them once a week or less. And don’t ever use pumpkin-spice-anything that’s not food. It doesn’t matter how nice it smells, no one appreciates when their hands smell like pumpkin pie. Or when your home smells like pumpkin pie and there actually isn’t any physical pie to be had. It’s grounds for ending a friendship. So be smart, savor the flavor, and this fall you’ll be pumpky-keen.