In Defense of Pumpkin Spice
I reach for my paper cup and let sweet, spicy ambrosia warm the interior of my body. I imagine lying naked in a pile of dead leaves and letting a personified version of autumn ravish my entire body.
Photo via Flickr user Matt Gibson
Despite its overwhelming popularity, I've seen pumpkin spice get a lot of flak lately in the press—for example, Scotty Smalls' scathing (and infuriating) profile of the Supposed Former Pumpkin Spice Infatuation Junkie. (Those were not his exact words, but the gist being that loving pumpkin spice makes you into some kind of eyeless consumerist monster, easily persuaded to like just about anything by the power of trends and advertising.) But what he doesn't understand is that for people like me .... well, I can assure him that my love for all things pumpkin spice is coming from within; it is dictated only by the beat of my heart, my love of the season and the pumpkin spice lifestyle, and the longing of my tastebuds.
First, there is nothing wrong with enjoying the feeling of coziness. I spent the last 90 or so nights sweating my ass off in the sweltering summer heat, and yes, frankly, I am excited to wake up with a renewed sense of purpose knowing that I will be surrounded by coffee franchises that will happily offer me the comfortable consistency of a methodically crafted pumpkin spice latte as I traipse down the street in a peacoat instead of a sundress. There should seriously be a calendar holiday signifying when pumpkin spice goodies finally return to store shelves and café menus each year.
And I don't think that all of these different companies and coffee shops are creating pumpkin-spice potato chips and body sprays just for the money; I think they're making them because time has proven this flavor to serve as a really charming, special, seasonal treat that brings happiness, light, and positivity into our lives. It feels personal to order something pumpkin spice, like a wink at the end of your sentence, and it makes my eyes widen and my smile beam to anticipate crisper air and woolen scarves. Seemingly little things can offer real pleasure in our lives. Why should we be denied the raw ecstasy of pumpkin spice just because it has become popular? Shouldn't that indicate that it is truly desired, and by a passionate demographic?
And when I do go pick up a pumpkin spice latte from down the street, it really excites me—the experience is just so visceral. It's just an incredibly sensual moment when I first place my lips around the hole in the hard, plastic to-go lid, feeling the slightest shiver go through my body as I sense the slight sharpness of the cut-out pressing against the pink flesh of my mouth. As I lift the long, girthy venti cup higher and higher ever so slowly, my face submitting to its heat and proximity, I am first hit with the snow-white, vaporous foam frothing over my tongue and down my throat, signaling the sugary, caramel-colored liquid to come. And then I'm overtaken by the delicious synthesis of toasty espresso; scintillating cinnamon and nutmeg; and the aggressive, slightly dangerous allure of clove flavoring. My eyes close and I pull the cup closer, ever wanting more. Although I know I should only take one sip at a time, I can't help but keep drinking even though the near-boiling temperature of the latte cascading down my gullet causes my torso to clench.
Sometimes I will drink one (or more) in the bath; it's better than champagne, aged cognac, chocolate-covered strawberries. I let my legs hang over the side of the tub as the water runs, with Doris Day's "Autumn Leaves" wafting softly from my Jambox on the bathroom sink, my lips parted and my eyes brimming on and off with tears when she croons "Since you went away the days grow long / And soon I'll hear old winter's song." I reach for my paper cup and let sweet, spicy ambrosia warm the interior of my body. I imagine lying naked in a pile of dead leaves and letting a personified version of autumn ravish my entire body.
It doesn't matter what's in pumpkin spice syrup, you see—the high-fructose corn syrup, the carrageenan, any of that nonsense. What truly matters is the way that it makes you feel. Like you're meant to be right there in that moment. Like you're wanted, and allowed to want in return.
Scotty, you may say "fuck pumpkin spice," but I say: fuck you.
- pumpkin spice