HUNT COLUMN: In defense of pumpkin spice

Published 4:59 pm Tuesday, October 31, 2023

I’ve accepted the fact that not everyone is a fan of all things pumpkin spice like I am. I see you, person wearing an “I Hate Pumpkin Spice” tee shirt. I see you, “Pumpkin Spice Haters Anonymous” Facebook page. (But really, why Anonymous? It’s fine if you don’t care for the stuff. But must you rain on my annual parade?)

This fall marks the twentieth anniversary of Starbucks’ debut of their pumpkin spice latte. The drink became a seasonal hit, and its popularity has inspired all kinds of spin-offs. I’ve partaken of many of these tasty treats, including donuts and muffins, cereals, Oreos and other cookies, the Dairy Queen pumpkin pie Blizzard, and the Wendy’s pumpkin Frosty. 

My daughter makes a scrumptious pumpkin cheesecake. In my kitchen right now are the following pumpkin spice products: ground coffee, bagels, cream cheese, English muffins, coffee creamer, and tea. Oh, and something new this year—for my dog. The monthly dog treat and toy box that we subscribe to included in its October shipment a small tub of a granular mix labeled “Pumpkin Food Topper.” My husband and I laughed about it, but I mixed a spoonful of it with a half cup of warm water and poured it over the dry dogfood, and Gracie devoured her regular stuff in record time.

Now I know I said “all things pumpkin spice” at the beginning of this column, but even I draw the line at some things, such as pumpkin spice Spam and bologna (yes, real things). However, that probably comes down to my not liking either Spam or bologna to begin with. One year I sent a meme making fun of the craze to my priest. It was a (fake) ad for pumpkin spice communion wafers. Fortunately, he has a sense of humor. 

Rather than any real addiction to the flavor, I think more than anything I connect the reemergence of pumpkin spice every autumn to the return of my absolute favorite time of the year, the “ber” months: September, October, November, and December. Fall is my favorite season, and October is my favorite month. Pumpkin spice is just part of the autumn vibe, along with sweater and jacket weather, football and marching bands, wood fires, cozy socks and blankets, and warmly scented candles. 

As a teacher, this time of year was also my favorite. The high school just felt more fun and festive, with fall and Halloween decorations followed by Thanksgiving décor followed by Christmas spirit. I was at the football game almost every weekend, even making most of the road trips with my posse of teacher friends. Homecoming week dress up days were fun. There were no high stakes tests looming during the first semester. The warm classroom felt cozy in the early morning, and the weather was pleasant when it was time to go home.

I’m looking forward to the sights, smells, tastes and vibes of Thanksgiving and Christmas just as much as I look forward to pumpkin spice time every year. Every season has its joys, and pumpkin spice is one of my autumnal joys. So back off, haters, and let it be.  I also understand that there are a lot of candy corn detractors out there. But I don’t have the space or energy to tackle that subject right now. I’ll need more pumpkin spice coffee and sugar for that.