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Pumpkin spice is here. It’s time to accept it and move on.

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This week, Starbucks launched a seasonal Pumpkin Spice Latte. It’s an annual event that has become a refreshing floating leaf in our collective imagination, the cable-knit autumn’s iconic starting pistol. Don’t worry, even if we return to the upside-down world, the sweat of summer is still rolling down our backs.

But perusing the grocery aisles this year, something feels different. Or rather, I feel that the feeling of pumpkin spice has disappeared. Rather, it is inevitable. Like death, taxes and Taylor Swift’s new album Pumpkin His Spice is now just part of the human condition.

Toss pumpkin spice into the pile of things that once served as cultural landmarks but are now read as neutral. Punk Music now sells minivans.

So is pumpkin spice, which was seen as part of a lifestyle choice. It’s emblematic of the flavor’s most ardent followers, representing women (mostly white, most with perfect highlights) who prefer brunch and cozy sweaters and choose their own sweaters. increase. The apple orchard and kitchen painted sign conjures up a dream. Like any weather phenomenon, pumpkin spice season is upon us. Like it or not, it’s here for everyone.

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“You’re bound to come across something spiced with pumpkin, whether it’s pancakes or seasonal drinks,” says Melanie Zanoza-Bartherme, who tracks food trends at market research firm Mintel. “It’s something you can’t avoid, so you can enjoy it without being shy. It’s here. It’s all around us.”

Emily Comtois, an assistant professor of food and media research at the University of Tulsa, likened the mainstreaming of flavor to the mainstreaming of Agus. Very trendy in the late 1990s and her early 2000s, ironically it was quickly abandoned and frequently revived by the fashion elite. Now they are just another brand. “It was either ‘Oh, that’s a bursting bubble,’ or ‘I’ll never wear it again,'” she says. “But then these boots became part of our lives.”

While some cynics inevitably despise those who embrace #pumpkinspiceSZN for fun on Instagram, adding to the ridicule on social media is another slogan that seems to have emerged from the near-universal slogan of the past few years. There is a way of thinking. If PSL isn’t your thing, order a regular latte. or don’t. you.

One proponent of that stance warned on Twitter the day Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte debuted: No pumpkin spice slander today. Today we let people enjoy things!!!!”

“Who cares if someone is excited about a Taylor Swift album or a Pumpkin Spice Latte?” wrote another. “Make people feel joy and leave them alone.”

It’s not your imagination. Pumpkin spice products are really booming. NielsenIQ data shows he made over $231 million in sales last year, nearly 27% higher than he did the year before. This season Oreo is our first limited-time pumpkin spice flavor since 2017.

Flavors are particularly concentrated in the breakfast category. This makes sense given their barista-born origins. Found in cereals (Special K, Frosted Mini Wheats, Cheerios, etc.), baked goods (Thomas Bagels, English Muffins, Pillsbury Grounds), and yogurts (Chobani, Sigiz, Oui). Lots of coffee creamers and cold brew. In my recent Washington-area shopping rounds, I didn’t see any novelty products that marked the heyday of Pumpkin Spice’s peak. For example, no spam or potato chips.

No one judges their personality based on their preference for strawberry ice cream over chocolate. So how did Pumpkin Spice take its own place on the list of low-cost fun flavors?Starbucks added the warm flavor of Baking Spice to its seasonal offerings. Let’s go back a little bit to 2003, when he launched his latte.

As my colleague Maura Judkis pointed out in 2017, “pumpkin spice has become the ultimate symbol of basics” as its popularity spread through early social media feeds. With sayings like, “You took me to Pumpkin Spice.”

I have used all pumpkin spice items. Now my underarms smell like nutmeg.

Nearly 20 years later, we are in the 4th wave of Pumpkin Spice. Here, thanks to early pioneers and, of course, whimsical people, you can order pumpkin-spiced cold brew without worrying about baggage or irony. A food marketer who understands human nature and it. There seemed to be an opportunity for an early fall flavor somewhere between summer’s bright fruit and a looming array of holiday tastes, from peppermint to gingerbread.

Nature and capitalism hate a vacuum. “There was an opening,” he says Bartelme. Having flavors that gravitate towards the end of summer is comforting, she says. Please tell me everything will be fine.”

Contois offers a tougher account of the season’s attractions. As climate change brings record-breaking heat and violent stormy summers, she says the idea of ​​autumn, which Pumpkin Her Spicy flavor conjures up, is more reassuring than ever. “We’re going through these brutal summers that are uncomfortable and dangerous, so we crave cool air and crunchy leaves,” she says.

What is the simpler reason why it became popular? Well, a blend of cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger and allspice, Pumpkin Spice is actually pretty good as far as flavor profiles go.

At the end of August, I started skimming the grocery shelves, looking for the distinct burnt amber tones of pumpkin spice packaging. I collected over a dozen items and spent several days tasting them. I hope the husky spice and warm-up texture they promise somehow takes me away from the current reality that AC isn’t strong enough for soup. The above air is all around me, and the final word that describes my attitude is “revived”.

Pumpkin spice is perfectly good, but whatever medium you convey it in doesn’t necessarily elevate it—I’ve always liked Frosted Mini-Wheats. The seasonal version was orange frosted and aggressively colored, which was a nice change. The Harney and Sons teas in mugs, both with a mild baking spice sweetness, were a lovely afternoon treat.

Click here for homemade pumpkin mix recipes

On the other hand, I generally avoid Starbucks coffee and its bitterness, and the assertive pumpkin spice repetition of its beans and cold brew didn’t change my opinion. I tried adding pumpkin flavored creamer, but it didn’t help at all. But again, I have regular milk in my coffee. do you like oreos? That way, I’ll appreciate autumn’s incarnation, whose spicy scent clings to my hands long after they’ve been polished.

After all, my experiments did not put me at ease. Not temperature-wise, of course. As I write this, I’m thinking of scooping up my hair into a damp topknot and going upstairs to get a fan. But it taught me a lesson: No matter how appealing, pumpkin spice can’t hide the essence of something. But it’s okay to marinate in the late summer heat and last-minute fatty red tomatoes, buttered corn, and burgers on the grill.

And as I savor them, I enjoy pumpkin spice as a popular monoculture during these difficult times. Recently, Bartelme smiled when he found his service station near his home offering a ‘pumpkin spice oil change’. “We are joking now.”

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