Monday, November 11, 2013

Did you Want Whipped Cream on that Pumpkin Spice Rant?

Image from this web page.

Am I the only one who is already over all things pumpkin spice?  I haven't even had a slice of pumpkin pie yet this fall, but already, thanks to every quick serve restaurant chain and food blogger, I feel like I have been overwhelmed with fall flavors.  I mean, we had barely finished summer foods, like watermelon, strawberry and tomato, when the food bloggers jumped the culinary shark and trotted out the early pumpkin spice breads, muffins, and pies.  Not to mention soups, stews and all sorts of "let's take pumpkin seriously as a vegetable" dishes like gratins, pastas and souffles. 

I know that if I want off the foodie treadmill, I can just opt out of the food blogs, but I will still be assaulted by magazines at the grocery store checkout-- Martha and Rachael, I'm looking at you-- which feature not just pumpkin as a food, but as a decorating accent as well.  "Pumpkin spice" walls with a pecan trim and vanilla accents will apparently warm up any home.  And don't forget that this really got started in the coffee world. Starbucks had barely sold through their refreshing limited edition summer beverages when Pumpkin Spice hit their stores, and within minutes, everywhere you could buy a latte, you could pumpkin spice it. Now with flavored coffee, creamer and whipped topping practically falling off the grocery store shelves, you can spice up life at home too.  I even saw that eggnog, a self-respecting holiday flavor in its own right, has been, you guessed it, pumpkin spiced.  

In the spirit of full disclosure, I have to share the fact that I worked in the retail world most of my adult life.  I understand this has resulted in a twisted sense of seasonal paranoia which may account for my vehement reaction to such a warm and homey flavor.  Maybe it was the twenty five years of receiving hundreds of boxes of holiday themed red and green products around the 4th of July, already a couple of weeks after the annual holiday planning meeting in June.  Maybe it was all those years of feeling like a hamster in a little retail holiday wheel.   I've assembled calendar displays in early August, put up dreidel floor displays next to towers of back to school notebooks, and hung end caps with stocking stuffers before the black and orange Halloween glitter had been swept from the sales floors.  

As you can probably tell, its not just the December holidays that are rushed to the public.  There is a whole cycle of holiday marketing that has skewed the perception of when the holidays really happen.  Valentines and heart-themed store decor are ready in the back room to be put out when the Christmas stock goes on clearance. Easter-Mother's Day-Father's Day-Graduation tumble right along after, on display in some places for six to eight weeks before anyone really needs a stuffed bunny or :world's Greatest Dad" mug. The kids are barely out of school before the Sunday papers are full of ads for back to school clothes and supplies, which are displayed cheek-by-jowl with Halloween costumes.  This year, Fiona spotted a Fairy Princess costume and thought it would be the perfect thing to wear for her first day of kindergarten.  We ended up with a cute little dress, though she made a pretty persuasive case that wings, a wand, and a vial of magic dust would come in handy for such an auspicious occasion. 

Now that I think about it, maybe I shouldn't be hating quite so hard on  the pumpkin spice phenomenon. Frankly, it's one of the few retail nods to the bounty we're supposed to be celebrating at Thanksgiving, which seems to have resisted the push of commercialization, though it has almost been knocked right off the calendar, except as the day before Black Friday, the "official" shopping kick-off for the December holidays. Though I understand there are stores that will now be open all day on Thanksgiving, so that if your relatives prove truly unbearable when assembled for the feast, you can slip away, explaining that you're off to buy their holiday gifts.  Oy!  And, of course, we know that pumpkin spice season is as fleeting as the others. Starbucks and other chains brought out their red and green holiday cups and bags November 1st,when many of us were just starting to "sort" our kids' Halloween candy. 

All I can say is, get in line for your peppermint mocha now, and beat the rush.  


  1. Did you hear this article?

    And the retail holiday schedule really IS too rushed. I don't know what studies show, but I'm NOT that prepared of a person. I'm NOT going to be buying my holiday gifts in October. So by the time December comes around, I'm sick of looking at Christmas decorations (and hearing the muzak!), and my happy anticipation is on the wane.... so I probably buy less really.

  2. I know I'm out of holiday spirit by December, so I agree. I love that link-- thank you very much. I thought of pumpkin ale (mentioned in the NPR piece) when I was ranting too, but I couldn't even bring myself to go there. I think I might be building to a separate rant about the whole artisanal holiday beer thing-- when I see Bud honey wheat for summer, I know something has gone terribly wrong with our country!