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The amazing culture around 'pumpkin spice' everything

by Tt Shinkan The opinions and views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the opinion of Byte or Byte's editorial board. It’s that time of the year again. Leaves are changing, the temperature is dropping, and the sweet and spicy taste of pumpkin spice makes it’s glorious return. Everything, and I mean, EVERYTHING, is getting a pumpkin spice makeover for the season. You’ve got breakfast cereal, cookies, ice cream, protein powder, and dog treats, and many, many others. Chances are, if you can think of a product, there’s a pumpkin spice alternative for it this season. I have to admit, I absolutely love pumpkin spice. It’s one of the many things I look forward to during the fall season. Maybe it’s the sweet cinnamon flavor I enjoy or maybe it might just be the exclusiveness of it. After all, it’s only around during a limited time in the year, and I love exclusive things. But how exactly did this seasonal flavor produce such a cult following and why is it so enticing?

Image from Fortune
Let’s start with a little history lesson. This might come as a shock but the Pilgrims didn’t actually eat pumpkin pie at the first Thanksgiving since the ovens they had wouldn’t be able to bake the crust modern pumpkin pies have. However, a variation of pumpkin pie was around during the mid-1600s. This was made by making stewed pumpkins or by filling a hollowed out shell with milk, honey and spices, and then baking it in hot ashes.” So let’s flash forward a few hundred years to the 1950s. This decade saw poodle skirts, the rise of Elvis, the launch of the Communist satellite, Sputnik, the Korean War, the attempted assassination of Harry S. Truman and the debut of pumpkin spice! McCormick started to sell the tasty blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove. The actual name of the spice is “pumpkin pie spice” and was originally intended to be used in the pie, but much like how we can’t have nice things, people started to throw this blend onto other things. By the decade of my birth, the 1990s, people started to discover that coffee is much more tasty with flavors. In 2003, Starbucks saw this opportunity of artificial flavoring and decided to add a little pumpkin spice love into their lattes. And thus, the Pumpkin Spice Latte was born. 
Image from Scientific American
Ever since then, there has been a rise in the popularity of this drink, which gave birth to other food variations of the flavor. So why exactly is this so popular? Well, the answer to that mythical question is a simple one and that is “limited edition”. This flavor is only around for a limited time during the year so of course it’s going to have a cult following. Anything with the tagline “only here for a limited time” sounds much more appealing than something that’s here to stay. There’s timeliness quality to it. For instance, would you rather get a Quarter Pounder with cheese or a McRib? Well neither since both are God awful for you, but you would probably gravitate towards the McRib because it’s only around for a certain amount of time. There’s also another reason for its success, is the time of year it’s sold: Fall. Mostly everyone loves fall, and whoever doesn’t is a liar. The air starts to get cool and crispy while the trees start their slow, beautiful descent into death. It also seems like the air starts to smell sweeter as well. The warm smell of cinnamon fills our noses and the thoughts of home and family flashes in our minds. Fall is a homey season, and pumpkin spice is a homey smell and taste. You instantly feel better after taking that first sip and it seems like all of your problems are gone. Then you finish the drink, realize that you should not be drinking caffeine and then proceed to not be able to concentrate for the rest of the day. 

pumpkin spice sausage
What's Cooking America Scientific American The Daily Meal
Fortune Scientific American Wide Open Eats