Note: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are solely those of the individual author and do not represent that of CU Denver or the University Communications Department.
It’s officially fall. How do I know? It’s not the orange leaves or the autumn air. No, it’s the pumpkin. The pumpkin everything.
It’s not just the relatively inoffensive pumpkin spice latte. The pumpkin invasion knows no bounds. Pumpkin spice, as it turns out, can be applied equally well from meats to sweets. If you don’t believe it, allow me to provide some examples.
The improbable Pumpkin Spice Spam
Let’s start with the improbable Pumpkin Spice Spam. As if canned meat weren’t revolting enough on its own, Hormel Foods released this limited-edition variety after joking about its existence in a Facebook post from October 2017. So many users were actually on the hunt for this fake Spam that Hormel Foods decided to give the public what it demanded—and Pumpkin Spice Spam was officially launched on Sept. 23, 2019.
Like most pumpkin-flavored autumnal fare, the extra special Spam includes allspice, clove, and nutmeg (the trifecta of displeasure). It does not include pumpkin.
In fact, virtually everything pumpkin-flavored does not include pumpkin. I have a feeling pumpkins everywhere are silently trying to distance themselves from these dubious food products. I imagine the poor gourds pressing themselves into the ground whenever a new pumpkin edible is unveiled.
Back to the limited-edition Pumpkin Spice Spam. It’s apparently not considerably worse than the original. Food & Wine magazine admits, “The pumpkin spice flavors are certainly present, though more subtly than I had expected.” The Daily Meal concludes, “the general consensus was that the flavor really wasn’t bad.”
PSL conspiracy taints deodorant, beer, dog treats
This is how far the pumpkin-spice conspiracy has come: desserts include pumpkin doughnut holes, pumpkin pie Kit Kat, pumpkin pie Milano (alas, my favorite cookie has been taken), and pumpkin loaf (not to be confused with the pumpkin loafer, a type of shoe existing only in my imagination); beverages include pumpkin cream cold brew, pumpkin spice latte stout (as in beer), pumpkin spice Kahlua (as well as rum, vodka, and other spirits), and pumpkin spice kombucha (when a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast is too subtle); impossibilities include pumpkin spice latte deodorant (when Old Spice isn’t enough), pumpkin spice protein powder, pumpkin spice Jamaican-style salsa, and pumpkin spice Greenies dental dog treats (because even the pets aren’t going to escape the season unscathed).
It’s not an exaggeration to say that pumpkin spice latte flavor is everywhere. It’s so ubiquitous it is now an acronym—PSL (defined by Urban Dictionary as “the most delicious treat of fall,” which means even they’re in on it).
Some might argue that its popularity must mean it’s great. The masses have spoken—and they want pumpkin spice. But really, who is to blame for this trend?
Back in 2003, Dukes worked as a product manager in Starbucks’ espresso division. After the success of the Peppermint Mocha (no comment) during the previous winter holiday season, Dukes wanted a limited-edition drink to represent autumn. Even though it tested poorly, the Pumpkin Spice Latte was born. Actually, the Pumpkin Pie Latte was born, although Starbucks quickly dispatched with the name (causing pumpkin pies everywhere to heave a collective sigh of relief).
Can a critic be converted?
When my co-workers found out I was not a PSL devotee, they insisted my taste buds had been obliterated in a ghost pepper incident. A collection was taken up by a particularly industrious person, and I was forcibly marched to the nearest coffee merchant, where I was ordered a pumpkin spice latte.I took a sip. It tasted warm and fuzzy and bright and beautiful. No, it didn’t. All I could say was the same thing the one food critic said about Pumpkin Spice Spam: the flavor wasn’t that bad. Which is to say, I would drink it under the same circumstances as I’d eat Spam—during a long power outage, in the dark.