There was a simpler time, not long ago, when the changing of the seasons was quite obvious. We had the arrival of crocuses after a long winter, signaling the arrival of spring.
Summer brought days that seemed to last forever. Autumn was telegraphed by the blazing foliage and the coming of the first frost. Winter invariably would arrive rudely with snow or ice and temperatures frigid and unforgiving.
I was out and about a few days ago, enjoying a late August afternoon and found myself in the local supermarket staring down the barrel of the premature arrival of fall.
It was on the shelf, plain as day. It was not a bag of browned leaves or a box of fallen acorns. It was Pumpkin Spice.
Pumpkin Spice everything. Cookies, snack cakes, coffee creamer. There were pumpkin air fresheners and potpourri. Pumpkin coffee, pumpkin pie, pumpkin ice cream and frozen yogurt. The only thing missing were pumpkins themselves.
It’s too early in the season to see pumpkins in the store. Watermelon season is not over and the pumpkins are going to muscle their way in like autumnal bullies.
Who decided that pumpkin was the Official Flavor of Fall? On whose authority did we bypass the traditional apple? Remember the apple? The Fruit of Fall, given to schoolteachers as gifts for generations when children returned to school.
What happened to a warm slice of apple pie with ice cream and cinnamon or even a slice of cheddar cheese for the northern folks? I guess the apple just wasn’t, well, sexy enough for fall.
The apple was a solid symbol of autumn. Apple pie itself is regarded as a symbol of our nation.
Don’t get me wrong, folks. I like pumpkin. In fact, I love pumpkin. My older daughter and I have a yearly contest to see how many pumpkin products we can accumulate during the season.
There really isn’t a “winner” and there are no prizes, but it’s a fun way for us to spend time together despite being 400 miles apart. We call it “The Pumpkin Games.”
The difficulty is with the vast array of pumpkin products currently on the market, it is quite possible that one of us, if not both of us, will be driven into poverty because of pumpkin.
Starbucks has announced recently that they are introducing a new ingredient to their incredibly popular pumpkin spice latte: Pumpkin.
Folks, it’s true. You have been spending six dollars for a pumpkin spice latte with no pumpkin in it whatsoever.
I have completed an informal inventory of the pumpkin and pumpkin spice products I have seen so far this year. I have seen, with my own two eyes — or four eyes, since I wear eyeglasses — pumpkin spice coffee, pumpkin spice tea, pumpkin spice cookies, pumpkin cakes, pumpkin pie, pumpkin cheesecake.
I have seen pumpkin ice cream, pumpkin frozen yogurt and something called a pumpkin spice frozen dairy dessert. I have seen pumpkin bread, muffins and loaf. I have even seen pumpkin spice M&Ms.
Meanwhile, the old stalwart, the apple, is getting pushed further to the bottom of the list of acceptable autumn flavors.
There are plenty of flavors that, at least in my eyes, are representative of fall. There is the aforementioned apple and all its variations. Cinnamon is a delightful flavor, especially when paired with apple. A delicious hot apple cider was once the popular cold-weather beverage before the onslaught of pumpkin.
Hazelnut is nice and comforting, as if it is the warm fleece blanket of flavors. Good old vanilla is still a strong choice. It’s delicious both warm and cold and it blends with pretty much anything.
On the fringe, we have the very tasty childhood favorite of mine: snickerdoodle. I don’t really know what makes up a snickerdoodle, but I think the combination would blow the pumpkin spice craze out of the water.
Don’t bother mentioning mincemeat. I have never met anyone under the age of 100 who enjoyed mincemeat.
These are only the edible choices. I have not begun to explore the vast array of body sprays, soaps, gels, lotions and such that are everywhere. Bath and Body Works has a whole display devoted to pumpkin and pumpkin spice variations. For $11, you can buy a small jug of gel that smells like pumpkin spice pecan pancakes.
I imagine pumpkin spice is here to stay. I can’t wait for my first pumpkin pie of the year. I try to wait until Thanksgiving, but my wife and I usually give in and covertly buy one and get it home without the neighbors seeing and yelling at us that it’s too early for pumpkin pie.
I’ll continue on my campaign to reinstate apple as the flavor of fall. After all, the phrase “As American as apple pie” sounds a heck of a lot better than “As American as pumpkin spice pecan pancake latte shower gel.”
Pretty soon, autumn will be a memory and Christmas and winter will be upon us.
You’ll know it when the egg nog arrives.
Baltimore native Joe Weaver is a husband, father, pawnbroker and gun collector. From his home in New Bern, he writes on the lighter side of family life.