I was in Trader Joe's recently and there were pumpkin flavored dog treats. Now, I can't speak for my dog (though I have been known on occasion to speak as my dog when talking to her) but I'm pretty sure she has no interest in our nation's bizarre obsession with all things pumpkin. During October, Americans eat, drink, and breathe pumpkin everything. I've accepted the fact that this tradition has become a staple of our culture for some time now, but I can't help but notice that it has been taken to unsettling heights this year. And what's even more unsettling - and surprising - is that this whole pumpkin thing has actually been a part of our country's history from the very beginning.
Now, the recent surge in popularity of America's lovable orange squash started, of course, with that fall favorite, the Pumpkin Spice Latte. The Jesus figure of the pumpkin movement, this ridiculous(ly good) beverage made its debut a little over ten years ago. Before then, I don't recall anyone ever saying, "Boy, I wish my drink was pumpkin flavored." The only thing people were using pumpkins for were pies and decoration. Ah, what dark times those were. That's when the (questionably) brilliant people at Starbucks had an idea: pumpkin in hot liquid form. Look, I didn't say it was a good idea.
Pumpkin flavored coffee; sure, it sounds disgusting. The mad scientists at Starbucks wanted something that would evoke the feeling of fall. But would the flavor instead evoke feelings of nausea? Would caffeinated consumers really be interested in trading in their "Vanilla Soy bullshit things" as Larry David likes to call them, for Pumpkin Spice bullshit things?
The answer was a resounding "yes." Because when the Pumpkin Spice Latte was first rolled out in a test market in Washington, DC, there was a great and immediate response to it. The folks in DC simply loved it. So as usual, we have our politicians to blame for this problem.
As the Pumpkin Spice Latte soared in popularity, it wasn't long until the beer companies jumped on the bandwagon. After all, if our coffee's infused with pumpkin, why shouldn't the same go for our nation's other favorite vice? Pumpkin beer is now ubiquitous during the month of October. But believe it or not, like the Pumpkin Spice Latte, we actually have a politician to blame for pumpkin beer as well: George Washington.
Turns out our founding father used to make pumpkin beer regularly. In fact, it was actually a pretty common thing back then. Pumpkin-infused alcohol dates as far back as the early 1600s. Pumpkin was such a big deal for our early ancestors that its praises were even sung in one of America's very first folk songs:
Hopefully their pumpkin recipes were better than their rhyming skills.
I've come to terms with pumpkin beer and pumpkin coffee being forever a part of our collective lives. I can even live with the pumpkin dog treats. But when I was in the store the other day, I turned down the Hostess aisle and there, staring back at me in all its 2,700 calorie glory, were a box of Pumpkin Spice Twinkies. I'm not proud of the fact that I was in the Hostess aisle to begin with, but then to see this? Is there really a demand for Pumpkin Spice everything? The popular burger joint in LA, Umami Burger has been known to serve Pumpkin Spice Latte burgers. Pumpkin Spice Oreos are a thing. So is Pumpkin Spice peanut butter. There are Pumpkin shampoos, perfumes, and even Pumpkin lip balms. The list goes on. If Cinderella were being written today, her fairy godmother wouldn't dare turn a pumpkin into a carriage. It's way too valuable a commodity.
But I guess I can't complain, since pumpkin, it turns out, is as American as apple pie. Which I hear is also being sold this year in a Pumpkin Spice variety.