Even before the first leaf considers falling and the nighttime temperatures dip below a mere 70 degrees, grocery stores and coffee shops make the transition to pumpkin-spiced everything.
Your favorite bagels? Pumpkin-spiced. Coffee creamer? Pumpkin-spiced. Cereal? Pumpkin-spiced. Spaghetti sauce? — Oh yes, totally serious: Pumpkin-spiced.
Just like Christmas, this fall confection obsession seems to start earlier every year; even the well-known Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte (known simply as “PSL” on the still-summer streets) came back on Aug. 12 — with sales at 1.4 billion (billion!) since 2003.
Why is America so obsessed with the Pumpkin-spice phenomenon?
According to CNN.com there is actual science behind the longing.
Starbucks has an advantage as caffeine and sugar make your body feel alert and happy, but the taste of the cinnamon, nutmeg and pumpkin goodness is said to “… provide an association between fall rituals and good family memories as well as the desire to be a part of something a larger group is participating in.”
So when everyone else is munching on pumpkin-spiced Pringles, I want to, too!
So what is pumpkin spice and when did this all start?
In 1936 The Washington Post published a recipe for “Pumpkin spice cakes” and touted pumpkin spice as a “delicacy tempting to all appetites”
In the 1950s, spice companies started selling blends named “pumpkin pie spice” which was simplified to “pumpkin spice” in the ’60s.
A blend of cinnamon, allspice, clove and ginger it was to simplify pumpkin pie making, however cooks began to notice its versatility in other dishes such as those containing squash or sweet potatoes.
Fast-forward to the late 1990s, and flavored coffees were popping up everywhere — and an obsession was born.
A September trip to the grocery store proved quite interesting with rows and rows of what appeared to be somewhat of a battle-between-companies in just what could be pumpkin-spiced?
M&Ms, yogurt, Oreos, Pop-Tarts, popcorn, pancakes. … How about some pumpkin-spiced cream for your pumpkin spiced coffee? How about unwinding after a long day with a cold pumpkin-spiced beer?
It’s not just food companies that hope to get you feeling fall-fabulous, either.
Since the mid 1990s, candle companies have been selling pumpkin-spiced jars — often labeled with themes such as “Sweater Weather” “Hayride” and “Autumn in the Park.”
Fall rituals and family memories, indeed.
Speaking of family, while you are getting your home cleaned up for holiday visits, why not use some pumpkin-spiced air fresheners, dish soaps and cleaning sprays.
When it comes down to it, America’s obsession with all things pumpkin-spice is simply about feeling good.
The cooler weather is coming, beautiful fall colors are soon to grace the Eastern Shore landscapes, family gatherings and the holiday season is just around the corner.
Take it as a portal to happiness — if you will — and enjoy sipping in the feelings of the season.