The pumpkin spice of life

Back in the dark ages when I was growing up, if you heard the word “pumpkin, ” you could be quite certain that the next word would be “pie.” Everyone bought a can of pumpkin once a year for their Thanksgiving pumpkin pie. Or if you liked experimenting and wanted to make something “healthful,” you could make pumpkin bread and amaze your friends that pumpkin – a vegetable! – could be incorporated into a quick bread recipe.

But these days, the amount of pumpkin flavored products available is overwhelming.  And they start appearing on grocery store shelves as early as the end of August – even before Costco has their Halloween costumes in stock.

Especially at Trader Joes, the applications of the ubiquitous fall squash are very imaginative…even if they are a little questionable. There’s Pumpkin Salsa, Pumpkin Mochi, Pumpkin-spice tea, coffee and beer, Pumpkin Tortilla Chips, Pumpkin Spice Pumpkin Seeds (talk about redundant) and Pumpkin Body Butter, just to name a few. Slather on the Pumpkin Body Butter on a warm day and you might have your coworkers sniffing the air and asking where’s the turkey and mashed potatoes.

My favorite pumpkin product is one that has no reason for existing except to be the Nutella of the pumpkin-palooza at Trade Joes:  Pumpkin Pie Spice Cookie Butter.  Spread it on toast and consume three days worth of calories in one snack.

Then there are the truly horrible orange colored candies, cookies and chemicals such as Oreos, M&Ms, Pop-Tarts, coffee creamer, granola bars and marshmallows that were grown in a food science laboratory and not a pumpkin patch.

What prompted the plethora of pumpkin products to be produced? I blame Starbucks pumpkin spice latte for the trend.

Despite having its own Twitter account with more than 104,000 followers, a pumpkin spice latte is actually a pretty nasty drink – but it sounds so darn good. It brings to mind an association with something naturally authentic – a pumpkin – combined with the images of what Thanksgiving should be but in reality, rarely is – cozy times with family sharing warm memories and delicious food that smells wonderful while it’s being prepared. As I think about it, it’s actually amazing how on many levels Pumpkin Spice Latte speaks to us.

To tap into the sense of comfort that pumpkin spice generates, I’m going to get into the spirit of the season…starting with our cat. Instead of looking at him and seeing a lazy, annoyingly bossy orange cat, I’m going to think of him as a pumpkin spice cat. I feel better already.

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