When Starbucks debuted Pumpkin Spice Latte eighteen years ago, I was ecstatic.  I loved pumpkin pie, and this seasonal coffee drink seemed to be a natural variation of that. 

It just perfectly fit in with fall, that time of year when we’ve gotten tired of the summer heat and are craving something hearty, spicy, and comforting to ward off the slight chill in the air.  About the only thing that I didn’t like about it was that Starbucks didn’t top it off with enough whipped cream.  That part would often melt into the rest of the drink.

Pumpkin spice everywhere

Now, the pumpkin spice season invades every aspect of our lives – well, that’s what it seems like.  People will say “PSL,” and the need to say Pumpkin Spice Latte is superfluous. And just like Halloween and Christmas, it seems to come earlier every year.  For instance, I saw the drink already make its appearance at a Starbucks in Los Angeles in late August.  Isn’t that a little too soon? 

While I’m not boasting, I enjoyed pumpkin spice before it became this worldwide phenomenon, and I still do today.  But one thing I don’t understand is the need for companies to make everything into pumpkin spice, even when it doesn’t make any sense.

A totally fine example of pumpkin spice foods...in a pie (photo courtesy of Stephanie Frey, Bigstock Photo)

The good

Granted, some things do.  When restaurants introduce or re-introduce a pumpkin spice muffins, bread, or cake, that’s fine.  Sometimes they’ll even go well with an accompaniment like specially flavored cream cheese. Even something that’s not completely expected can be welcome.  An example of this would be pumpkin spice pasta or soup, especially when it’s paired with butternut squash or…pumpkin.

That’s part of the good with pumpkin spice.  Those things that naturally go with pumpkin and appropriate fall treats.  But some things just don’t work.

Here you go...pumpkin spice Spam. I'll pass (photo courtesy of foodandwine.com)

The bad

What is part of the bad? Well, let me list a few things.

Spam – I’m one of those rare people who won’t knock this so-called canned meat.  I think it has some degree of pork shoulder, but I’m not sure what else.  It’s great as a musubi (sushi roll) and as fried rice or pan-fried with some brown sugar, as my dad used to do for many early morning breakfasts.  But a pumpkin spice Spam just doesn’t work for me, even if Food & Wine says it does. I think the intention was good, but the resulting execution just made it taste like something weird.

Pringles – RAS likes Pringles – the potato crisps with a distinctive wedge shape that come in a can that looks like it would hold tennis balls - and will buy them every so often.  The rest of   household is indifferent, but I will nosh on them every so often. But one year, he brought home pumpkin spice Pringles chips, and none of us could get through a bite without gagging a bit.  It seems like Pringles has thankfully discontinued this flavor.

Now there’s just some things that cannot be explained in a sensible way where pumpkin spice is concerned.  These companies have just tried too hard to jump on the bandwagon.

This auto service in Chattanooga got very creative with its advertising. But how is this done? (photo courtesy of Jay Watts, CMAA, via Twitter)

The just plain weird

Here are some examples of the weird of pumpkin spice:

Native Pumpkin Spice Deodorant - I’ve tried this brand because I like the idea of an aluminum-free deodorant.  While there isn’t any conclusive evidence of aluminum causing diseases like Alzheimer’s, I always want to be safe.  But having pumpkin spice as a deodorant scent? You wouldn’t give off the pleasant aroma of a fresh baked pie, I’m sure, but the concept of this just sounds a little strange. Like Pringles, the pumpkin spice option is no longer on sale.

Pumpkin Spice Twinkies - Supposedly and God forbid, if there ever was a nuclear holocaust, the only things that would remain intact are cockroaches and Twinkies.  Would this apply to the strange concept of Pumpkin Spice Twinkies?  I’m not sure.  I haven’t eaten one in over 30 years, probably longer than that. But trying to make this artifically tasting cake more appetizing by creating one in the flavor of the season may not help its already synthetic reputation.

And then there’s…Pumpkin Spice Rubber (see above).  I'm sure this was a complete joke. But still...some people probably asked for and expected it.

Please, everyone.  Just stick to the basics. Pumpkin Spice Latte, muffins, cookies, etc.  But no more of these products where it just doesn’t belong.