Pumpkin spice is officially here. I guess it has been for some time. It was 107 degrees on August 31st here in San Diego when I was waiting impatiently for my iced latte and noticed this lovely board mocking me.
Is this real life? Just to reiterate. It was 107 degrees outside and about 95 degrees in my car. I was half tempted to steal the sign, because not today coffee mermaid Nazis. Not today.
But now of course I’ve had about eight of them since they’ve made their grand reappearance because I’m pretty sure it isn’t really fall until you’ve pumpkin spiced everything in your life from your coffee to your antibacterial hand soap (who knew Hep A hates pumpkin spice almost as much as I do?!).
I was also up at 5:00 am yesterday making these lovely chocolate chip cream cheese pumpkin muffins because I figured they’d go with the vat of coffee I had planned for that morning. I’m probably over compensating for being a shitty parent and housewife in other aspects of my life but that’s really a conversation for my therapist. I highly recommend them, they were so unhealthy and delicious that even my two-year old who absolutely refuses to eat vegetables ate half a muffin with zero prompting. The other half she smashed into the carpeting of my car but that whole day my Ford Flex smelled amazing so I wasn’t as mad as I probably should have been.
This is the first year that I’ve really embraced the pumpkin flavored nonsense as part of my fall repertoire. I’ve always secretly hated pumpkin pie as a child and really used it primarily as a delivery method for whipped cream. Don’t get me wrong, I love fall. I’m the first one rocking a scarf and boots at play dates as soon as the air starts to crisp. We are usually that house on the street who couldn’t wait to put out carved pumpkins and so by the time trick-or-treaters make their appearance on October 31st, the smiling carved faces on our pumpkins are also rotting and covered in fruit flies (I maintain it adds to the spooky effect). While I’ve always enjoyed fall scented candles, I usually went for something in the apple and cinnamon family. But this year is different. I guess I’m finally saying yes to the pumpkin spice band wagon and it’s both freeing and utterly obnoxious. Because instead of just getting on the wagon, I have to also light it on fire and run it off a cliff Thelma-and-Louise style. That’s just how I like to ring in a new season.
So that started me thinking, why pumpkin flavored/scented everything? Why is that our symbolic way to ring in the fall season? Why not butternut squash? It’s not as if pumpkin on its own smells that particularly wonderful. It smells sort of like a hearty mud and if you’ve ever seen it come out of a can, it looks a little like something you might find in a diaper. In case you were wondering, pumpkin pie spice (eventually shortened to “pumpkin spice”) was originally a blend of spices concocted by McCormick and some of the other spicy big wigs in the 1960s to make it easier for homemakers to add spice to their fall life by blending the common ingredient for pumpkin pie (cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, allspice etc.) but of course did not actually include pumpkin because pumpkin is a vegetable. This would have been really nice to have when I was rummaging through the chaos that is our spice drawer, trying to find all of these exact spices for those damn muffins. Anyways, the spice blend eventually gave way to pumpkin spice candles, which eventually gave way to the masses just handing their wallets to Starbucks for making it rain PSL’s.
So now you know why we pumpkin spice everything, but why do we carve pumpkins? Well, if you thought it was an American tradition, you’re wrong. The symbol of the carved pumpkin or “Jack O Lantern” dates back to an Irish and Scottish tradition in which scary faces were carved into potatoes and turnips and lit up with lumps of coal to ward off the legendary “Jack of the Lantern.” Once these people immigrated to America and discovered the pumpkin a new tradition was born! And thank goodness, because if my pumpkin carving skills are any indication there is no way I should be carving fucking potatoes.
Now excuse me, I’m going to light a bunch of pumpkin candles, lather myself in pumpkin spice lotion, double fist these fresh baked pumpkin cream cheese chocolate chip muffins, and make a Starbucks run.