Burns My Bacon: The Sudden Decline of Pumpkin Spice

Pumpkin Spice Latte

PHOTO: Starbucks

Pumpkin flavored anything is on the top of my list from mid September up until the day after Thanksgiving. Yes, that’s right, I celebrate fall from beginning to end. Apparently, I am in the minority. Approaching a day of meetings, angry co-workers, and tons of stress, I decided to get a pumpkin spice latte from Starbucks. I enter Starbucks, proudly present my Starbucks app (I’m a Gold member), and order my latte with a sprinkle of extra fall. What do I get after I actually order and start waiting? “Oh, we don’t have pumpkin spice anymore.” Day. Ruined.

I’m sorry, did I miss the fall foliage, carved pumpkins, horror movie marathons, trick-or-treaters, and high school football season? Nevermind Thanksgiving – that’s a battle that will never be won. But to take pumpkin spice off the shelves before Halloween?! What is the world coming to? Are we all that ready for Christmas? Do you REMEMBER what last winter brought? Tons of snow! I love skiing, but I’d like to enjoy the full extent of the fall season. That includes the special pumpkin taste of fall. Don’t give me the BS about “your market hasn’t demanded the product.” All that is telling me is that the region I live in sucks. They are a bunch of namby pamby rich snobs that are entitled to the point that they believe they should be showered with gifts and attention even longer. STOP IT. In all fairness to Starbucks and my barista – they did comp my hazlenut latte (said in a dull and drab voice) because of my visible distress given the situation. But that could also be because I am a gold card member.

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Where’s the Pumpkin?

This fall has been a rocky one for pumpkin loving people.  With the dawn of October came a Starbucks pumpkin latte shortage that left coffee fans reeling with deprivation.  With its whip cream poof and milky autumnal hue, the pumpkin spice latte has practically overtaken its ancestor (the pumpkin, lest you forget) as the national mascot of Fall.  Yet what exactly is pumpkin spice?  Homemade recipes include a tablespoon or two of actual canned pumpkin pie mixture, which presumably dissolves in hot milk and espresso to create the ghost of a gourd flavor.

However, gourd is one food group that I am not particularly keen to add to my coffee.   Cinnamon, cardamom, mint, chai—those are all semi-acceptable additions to spice up our daily mud.  But pumpkin?  Might as well be sweet potato, or butternut squash.

What, then, explains the pumpkin spice latte’s popularity?  After five seconds of sleuthing, the answer becomes clear.  The Starbucks pumpkin spice latte has no pumpkin!  Hence, “pumpkin spice.”  Pumpkin spice, according to Starbucks, consists of cinnamon, nutmeg and clove, the autumnal trifecta of spices.  In a neat twist of branding, the fall mascot is paraded in front of our eyes, cute and plump and vegetal, and then whisked away, never to be seen again.  Until Thanksgiving, that is, when “pumpkin spice” makes its encore appearance in pies, whose pumpkin content we traditionally make great effort in disguising.

If we read too deeply into the pumpkin’s plight, we can trace similarities between the New World squash and its indigenous cultivators.  But such a connection is perilous and academic, and, of course, not what anyone wants to be reminded of on the very day of celebration.  Instead, we’ll treasure our pumpkin-less lattes for a few sweet months before transitioning into the white wonderland of eggnog and peppermint, seeking snow in our beverages when it fails to appear elsewhere.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Peanut Butter and Philly

Last week I was in Philadelphia for my 9-5. But what’s funny about Philly is, even though it’s my hometown city, I barely know about it. I lived on the other side of the *bridge* and crossing that bridge was portrayed as such a big deal, such a hardship, such a production that it almost never occurred. And what my mom said goes, if she didn’t do Philly, we didn’t do Philly.

Of course, I still knew, and benefited from, many of Philly’s culinary offerings.

photo-36

The soft pretzel. I never knew the soft pretzel was special to Philly. When I was little I thought all cities were filled with pretzel street vendors.

After a very brief google search, and a hunch of my own, it looks like Philly owes its signature snack to the Pennsylvania Dutch. The pretzels here are not dipped in butter and shaped like shoelaces, but have a crust, yet are soft and chewy inside. They do not need mustard. The office where I was working receives a weekly present of pretzels from a previously satisfied client. Pretzels are not just a snack, but a gesture of thanks, good taste and local flare.

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The Top 10 Drinks Only America Could Have Invented

Independence Day 2008 inspired Endless Simmer’s most popular all-time post: The Top 10 Foods Only America Could Have Invented. So by popular demand (actually, by DAD GANSIE’s year-old suggestion), we’ve returned with a list of 10 ridiculous, patriotic ways to wash down all those corn dogs and buffalo wings. Don’t head out to the BBQs this 4th of July weekend without first consulting  The Top 10 Drinks Only America Could Have Invented:

10. Irish Car Bomb

car-bomb

What? You thought this one was invented in Ireland? Yeah, by a leprechaun who needed something to pour over his Lucky Charms. In fact, this often-spilled, rather insensitive homage to the Emerald Isle’s Troubles was first concocted at Wilson’s Saloon in St. Norwich, Connecticut on St. Patrick’s Day, 1979. Only our most industrious country could produce minds bright enough to think “Hey, I can get drunk twice as fast if I just drop my shot right into my beer!” For the uninformed, a Car Bomb is equal parts Jameson Whiskey and Bailey’s Irish Cream, poured into a shot glass. Then you drop the shot into a pint of Guinness and chug the whole thing. Brilliant!

Honorable mentions: Sake bomb (pretty sure they don’t do this in Tokyo), and the Russian Boilermaker (surprise — not from Moscow).

(Photo: Penguin Bush)

9. Long Island Iced Tea

long-island

Looks so deceptively refreshing, doesn’t it? Only the most ridiculous place in all of America could loan its name to a drink that basically involves pouring everything behind the bar into one glass. For the record, a traditional Long Island is made from vodka, gin, tequila, rum, triple sec, sour mix and just a splash of cola. It tastes surprisingly un-revolting and (less surprisingly) makes you do some pretty stupid things after drinking it.

(Photo: Krscoci)

8. Venti Double Chocolate Chip Frappuccino

venti

It’s not dessert! It’s coffee! Riiiiight. Only Starbucks could convince the skinny jean wearing, yogalates practicing, yuppie women of America that it’s OK to buy a drink that has more calories than a bucket of lard. But if it’s served in a cup, it doesn’t count as food.

(Photo: Shiok or Not)

7. The Bacontini

bacon-martini

If there’s one thing we Yanks do well, it’s obsession. And anyone who’s every met one of us can tell you there are two things we can’t stop talking about: getting effed up, and bacon. So it was only a matter of time before we combined our two loves into one outrageous, trend-ending drink. The bacontini, now appearing on every blog, and soon enough, every bar across the USA.

6. Exercise Beer

ultra

But what to do the morning after you wake up and realize you’ve consumed nine shots of vodka and half-a-pound of bacon? Obviously, that’s when you switch over to exercise beer. The latest trend in American brews is super-low calorie beers like MGD 64, Select 55, and Michelob Ultra, which is my favorite because the ads for it actually show people drinking beer and then exercising. Finally, a way to get wasted every night and still lose weight, because you wouldn’t want to do something as drastic as, say, drink a little less beer.

Next: Top 5 Drinks Only America Could Have Invented

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