You know fall is in the air when women start wearing knee-high boots, men are watching football 24/7, kids are back in school actually getting homework done, and pumpkin spice shows up on every single advertisement, Starbucks cup, and food item ever produced in the entire galaxy.
Every fall, it seems, pumpkin, that fruit of the fall gods, attempts to destroy more worlds than Trump the Sun Eater, scorching everything in its path as it moves from beverage to dessert to air fresheners (really) to dining-room table cornucopia.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. We’ll show you how to embrace the season without going pumpkin bat-shit crazy.
Fall Is The Perfect Season, Pumpkin Its Perfect Mate
One could argue fall is the perfect season, not unlike its twin sister spring, both wondrous in their seasonal offerings and promise of transition. Fall is to seasons what bedtime is to parents: A welcome sigh of relief; a short span of time begging to be savored. But in America, land that we love, we tend to overdo it. Nowhere else do you find a better example than in the season known as the Invasion of the Great Pumpkin. To defeat the invasion and not drown in a wave of orange, one must be intentional and embrace all that is good while eschewing the bad.
First: Can we agree pumpkin is delicious? What with its smooth, velvety texture, its subtle, fragrant yet nutty undertones, the hint of sweetness. Its texture and easy preparation—thank you, God, for Libby’s Pure Pumpkin, not the gelatinous pumpkin “pie” nonsense that tastes like stale mushy candy—makes its applications endless. Bread. Dessert. Soufflé. Dip. Even that old standby: pie.
One of us loves pumpkin so much that, since last month, she has been tagged in myriad Facebook posts with pleas to check this recipe out and to look at that new product, all featuring the season’s spirit vegetable. The other of us isn’t as keen on pumpkin everything and avoids getting tagged, but its ubiquity makes escape impossible.
The best pumpkin product out there (besides Libby’s Pure Pumpkin) is, of course, the Pumpkin Spice Latte (PSL, solidarity!) which hit Starbucks September 8. Starbucks is nothing if not brilliant at marketing and maybe at going a little heavy on the fire when roasting their beans. Nevertheless, when they discovered the pumpkin craze—way back in 2003—they created a drink that would capitalize on it, like the business-freaks that they are.
With each new fall, the dominance only grows. In a word, it’s a force. On the drink’s ten-year anniversary, Starbucks had sold 200 million PSLs. “At the basic price of about $4 for a 12-ounce tall size, PSL means at least $80 million in revenue this fall for Starbucks, which serves it beginning in September,” Forbes reported in 2013. Even if you don’t get down on the PSL yourself, you have to respect that it’s grande capitalism topped with a little whipped cream.
That’s not all it is. Yahoo reports the PSL isn’t just a drink, but something that “represent[s] a certain fall-centric lifestyle that Starbucks has sought to promote.” Indeed, PSL has its own official Instagram, Twitter, and Tumblr accounts, and tweets in first-person.
Alas, there can be too much of a good thing.
It’s one thing to drink a pumpkin spice latte. It’s another to indulge in one or more of the following items in one day. Behold the pumpkin mecca of marketing annex that even Willy Wonka would find extreme.
Angle’s makes a Pumpkin Spice Kettle Corn; there’s Puffins brand pumpkin cereal and Nestle Toll House pumpkin spice cookies and morsels (instead of chocolate chips). Hershey’s has ruined already-pedestrian “kisses” (chocolate) by making pumpkin-chocolate kisses; and Kellogg’s offers pumpkin spice frosted Mini-Wheats (a gluten nightmare, people). Philadelphia makes a pumpkin- and cinnamon-flavored cream cheese, and International Delight and Nestle make their own version of pumpkin-spice creamer for those who don’t want to shell out $4 every time they need a pumpkin fix. Nabisco has even wreaked havoc on—or gloriously redeemed, depending on your view—the Oreo, with pumpkin spice creme. That’s ridiculous, but at least it’s a step up from the candy corn variety. Even Peeps have emerged from hibernation well ahead of Easter to bestow upon us the Pumpkin Spice Peep.
Things get extra crazy when it comes to booze. Kahlua, perhaps for the PSL fan who wants an eye opener in her morning coffee, offers a pumpkin spice coffee liqueur. Beer drinkers aren’t left out of the mix, either. Shock Top Brewery has its Pumpkin Wheat. Then there’s Blue Moon Harvest Moon Pumpkin Ale. Of course, Sam Adams gets in on the mix, as does New Belgium and the 42 other companies on this list of pumpkin beers. Since that list is from 2014, the numbers have surely grown.
There are countless breads and granola bars that shall go unnamed lest we become so exasperated with all the ever-loving pumpkin goods that we start drinking Pumpkin Spice Kahlua straight from the bottle. Starbuck’s genius strategy of turning the pumpkin into a lifestyle totem is no reason to make every grocery store in North America spend September 1 to November 1 looking like a pumpkin patch pulled off a hostile takeover.
Readers, don’t marry it. You and your hard-earned cash are better than the men behind the curtain, the marketing pumpkin gods who sweat and scheme in their never-ending quest to render pumpkin king and we the Oompa Loompa servants, drowning in a pulpy orange wave.
Pumpkin In Moderation
If you, like us, appreciate pumpkin but don’t want to become an orange Oompa Loompa, here are a few tips to appreciate that lovely fall squash like a normal human being.
Starbuck’s PSL is fantastic, but it can set you back $5 or more, so be frugal and make it at home. It doesn’t take much effort, and saves a ton of money. Put what you would have spent in an envelope for Operation Christmas Child or something philanthropic, and your wallet and kids in need will thank you. Pumpkin bread is a great snack, easy to prepare, and it really lends itself to this medium without being ridiculously strange (like pumpkin Peeps). But if, alas, you cannot live by bread and coffee alone—and, trust us, we wish we could—here are a few ideas for real-live, delicious meals with just a touch of that pumpkin goodness.
Pumpkin soup makes a great appetizer. You can make your own or, okay, we admit the Trader Joe’s one is delicious. Instead of the croutons we’d make their cornbread (if you have a bunch of cranky kids in the house like we do or are short on time and can’t do homemade), but that’s us. Another great fall meal is pasta, a protein, and a pumpkin sauce. Sound weird? Maybe. But trust us, this thing is satiating, warm, and looks and tastes like harvest on a plate. Try this Pasta with Pumpkin and Sausage recipe, or, if you’re really foodie, this one. And you can tell the kids: Hey! You’re eating pumpkin!
Fall is a magical time, but there is more to it than our evil Oompa Loompa overlords and their plans to wash the world in orange pulp. Enjoy the magic of those knee-high boots with skirts. Scream yourself hoarse while rooting for your favorite teams. Savor the crisp air; notice the trees’ newest adornments of red, yellow, and orange. Remember, there are a variety of other vegetables that pair perfectly with the season.
We appreciate pumpkin as much as the next fall-loving, argyle-sweater-wearing hipster, but please: Have some self-respect. Do not fall prey to the pumpkin druglords and sometimes, just on occasion, say no. Except when you’re craving that mild, smooth, semi-sweet fruit. Then indulge on a few pumpkin-y things and enjoy what fall harvested.