Allow Me To Change Your Mind: The Popularity of Pumpkin Spice


John Huber, Reporter

This column is going to follow a more general aspect of fall rather than the Homecoming flavors of the Red Solo Cup stereotype, and the fading spice that adults can give to Halloween because of its kid-friendly nature. Now that we are in its late-season, which is between Halloween and thanksgiving. I can talk about a well-known flavor that has lasted longer than one may think, and a flavor that has cemented itself as THE fall flavor, and that is Pumpkin Spice. But as usual, before I speak my opinion on this flavor trend let me tell you where it came from.

The history of pumpkin spice goes back as early as 3500 years ago according to archaeological records on Pulau Ay, one of the Banda Islands in Indonesia, so to talk about the history of pumpkin spice is to also talk about the history of nutmeg as a spice itself as well. Nutmeg used to be a delicacy exclusive to that island until at the latest the 1300s were traders arrived at the Banda Islands or the “Spice Islands” as they were known at the time because it was the only place where they can grow and was an integral part that kicked off the spice trade in Europe with the Dutch East India Company at the helm. It was the Dutch that took control of the islands in the early 17th century which made the ancestor to the modern pumpkin spice we know today.

Pumpkins themselves are one of the earliest crops domesticated on earth and used by the indigenous people in recipes often sweetened with spices. Then the Europeans came and enhanced its sweetness factor by making it into a pie which called for cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and pepper, and since pumpkins themselves are a North and South American crop it was associated with

By 1791 a similar blend popped up in “The Practice of Cookery” by a Scottish author known as “Mrs. Frazer” which had mixed spices and included Jamaican pepper for use in fried flour and mutton chops. However, it was not until 1796 when the modern-day pumpkin pie recipe appeared in the new world. Then in 1929 pureed canned pumpkin was introduced by a canned food company known as Libby’s which then inspired the first pumpkin pie spice mix in 1934. Finally, it did not start to get wildly popular until Starbucks introduced their pumpkin spice latte in limited numbers in the fall of 2003, to replicate the success of the Peppermint Mocha and the Eggnog Latte as well as cocoa and toffee which debuted the previous year (it was not until 2015 that Starbucks started to use actual pumpkin though.)

So, allow me to Change Your Mind.

Pumpkin spice is an exquisite flavor as is… however I never had an interest in it, so I am speaking from an outsider’s perspective to the whole phenomenon. I like the idea of using pumpkin spice as part of the fall lifestyle to give it that distinctive flavor but to me, the novelty wears out once you start realizing that people will buy anything or everything that has to do with pumpkin spice on the label (In fact it feels just out of place as bacon is and that can be any time of the year-might save that for a future volume though.)

What I mean is that in my opinion that the pumpkin spice craze has spiraled out of control, I mean I can tolerate something like pumpkin spice almonds, pumpkin spice Pringles, pumpkin spice candy corn, pumpkin spice hummus, pumpkin spice cream cheese spread, pumpkin spice cold brew coffee and even stuff like a KFC Pumpkin and Feta Twister, a Pumpkin Spice Latte Burger by Umami and even Pumpkin spice Twinkies and Pumpkin spice Peeps but once you step out of the food category you may want to consider that you may not want pumpkin spice into THAT part of your life and that includes but not limited to Toothpaste, Soap, Bread oil, Deodorant, Dog Shampoo and Dental Treats, Detail spray for your car, and flavoring sprays.

However, other flavors can go with the fall season though, and one of them is Apple (No, not the big tech company) which has been paired with cinnamon to make cupcakes, cobblers, dumplings cheesecakes, and muffins just as a small sample. Another example would be cranberries as an option alongside the usual thanksgiving flavors like mashed potatoes and turkey with gravy and a possible alternate flavor for cheesecake pies and even grilled meats. Then there is Butterscotch which contains the ingredients of caramel, browned butter, molasses, and vanilla to create the Aforementioned flavor that can be used for Blondies (A vanilla variant of brownies), Autumn styled cheesecakes, and even cookies and ice cream benefit well from butterscotch. We also have Pears which even though the harvest is between August and October (It will most certainly be November by the time this gets published) you can still use this if apples don’t satisfy that fruity quota, it can be used with spices including cinnamon, star anise, and vanilla and can bring forth pear ciders, crumbles, a chocolate pear cake and can even be poached.

So, in conclusion, while pumpkin spice is popular and apple cinnamon is nice don’t let those two be your only choices as there or other flavors to get you into that fall spirit before the holiday season arrives.