The time has come. We need to put an end to the pumpkin spice epidemic in this country. Fuck pumpkin spice. You’re being sold a lie. You feel the first fall breeze and a wave of plastic foods tumble in all claiming to be dusted with this magic spice. The Ugg booted shuffle in and eat until all of their cinnamon and sugar dreams come true.
I’ve always been curious where the pumpkin factors into a starbucks pumpkin spice latte. They alone must be keeping the pumpkin farmers in business right? Are they back there hacking up pumpkins and blending them in? Nahhhhh. They have a liquid diarrhea squeeze bottle that’s colored with annatto and squirted in. I was relieved to see some actual pumpkin puree listed in the ingredients but after sugar and condensed milk. The FDA has a rule about how companies display ingredients:
“the listing of each ingredient is in descending order of predominance.”
So, it's mostly sugar, then some milk and a pinch of likely canned pumpkin. Sorry pumpkin. This is a chai latte minus the black pepper, plus some orange stuff. Maybe next year! Pumpkin spice Peeps are in the mix too! So if you like orange and sugar injected into your blood stream step on up. Not a Peeps fan? What about pumpkin spice Oreos? Or cheerios? This may just seem like plastic food bashing, but it’s a game of principles and language. If someone is going to use the good name of pumpkin to sell products, the first ingredient should be PUMPKIN. Pumpkin isn’t a spice. In the culinary world, spices are a dried part of a plant, like bark (cinnamon), seed (cardamom), and so on. They can be dried berries, or flower buds even. You can see where a fresh orange winter squash wouldn’t fit in a line up with the rest of those guys. Pumpkin is not a spice. Therefore, pumpkin spice is a lie.
Moving on. McCormick or whoever got the idea to sell a spice blend and call it “pumpkin pie spice”. I think this is where everyone started getting confused. This blend is usually composed of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves. Delicious right? Why does this blend only have to be associated with pies, or fall even? Or pumpkins? Cinnamon, and ginger are buddies in Chinese five spice. Hell, remove the cinnamon and allspice and add some white pepper and you’ve got French four spice. Chai spice is pumpkin pie spice plus some black pepper, cardamom, and anise notes. My point is warming spice blends containing these “fall flavors” can be used year round and in a variety of savory and sweet applications. Across many cuisines. Don’t limit yourself.
Furthermore, and this will be elaborated on in another essay, don’t buy spice blends. Or even ground spices. Buy whole spices, toast when necessary and grind yourself. Make your combinations, and label them. Use within 6 months. I read somewhere that spices have a shelf life of four years. That is insane. Sure it won’t be rancid but the flavor and potency fades. Spice is meant to enhance food so why use it if its flavorless. Find a local spice shop, and buy less, more frequently. Be a potion master! Have fun! Working with fresh spices will make your house smell amazing and you’ll forget all about the “fall pumpkin spice”. Once again, and say it with me, fuck pumpkin spice.