It's the Great Pumpkin (Spice Latte) Charlie Brown
Despite fall officially starting in a few weeks and predictions for 90+ degrees this weekend, the PSL (that's Pumpkin Spice Latte in case you've been living under a rock since 2003) has arrived at Starbucks, and for its legion of fans, that means it's now fall. When the social media posts first hit my feeds, I started thinking about the PSL, and the pumpkin/pumpkin spice craze in general. Growing up it wasn't really a big deal, or at least not that I was aware of. My first memory of pumpkin as a thing is my freshman year in college. Not being a coffee drinker, I didn't opt for a latte, but did have a lovely affair with Dunkin Donuts' pumpkin spice donuts. There might even have been a time when because of said donuts, "pumpkin spice everything," was listed as an interest of mine on Facebook. #basic #sorryimnotsorry #yesimkindofsorry
We grew and picked pumpkins, adorned the front porch with them, carved our initials into the young ones as they grew, and painted or otherwise decorated pumpkins, but eating pumpkin pie or pumpkin in any other form? Not so much. Was this just a case of expanding my horizons in college? Had everyone been on the pumpkin as food train (hay ride?) without me? Or, maybe the fad really was born in the early aughts? I had to find out.
So what did I find? A) Corporations really do run things and B) The PSL and ensuing craze dates back to 2003. Pretty much everything I read credited pumpkin mania to Starbucks which launched the PSL in 2003. With my 2004 introduction to the world of pumpkin, I wasn't totally sheltered from the pumpkin life, just fashionably late to the pumpkin patch. The statistics are pretty staggering; between 2008 and 2015, sales of pumpkin flavored and scented food/home goods rose nearly 80%. The trend has even sparked pumpkin haters, one of whom wanted to start a national anti-pumpkin day because "it's just out of hand." Considering that this year there are Pumpkin Spice Cheerios, he kind of has a point.
I'm no longer all about the pumpkin flavored everything, but I get the appeal. When I think of pumpkins, I think of jumping in piles of leaves, Halloween, cozy fires, snuggling under thick blankets, being with family, Thanksgiving; it's basically a Hallmark Channel movie in my head. I'm not alone in that. Cindy Ott, wrote an entire book about pumpkins, Pumpkin: The Curious History of an American Icon, and found that it's about nostalgia and a longing for an idealized pastoral life that no longer exists for most of us -- I'd question whether it ever existed, but that's a different story. Fascinating how those three letters have created millions of dollars for companies because they make people think of the simple life.