If I had one wish, first I would go standard and ask for more wishes -- but then I would ask that all the fall-themed, pumpkin-flavored foods and drinks continue year- round. I would do this because I am absolutely, admittedly one of the lamestreamers who not only overindulges in pumpkin-spice-everythings every September to December, but also because I am part of a much bigger, very vocal group of pumpkin
psychos enthusiasts who have so much pent-up love for fall products that it seems almost...maybe...sorta like we may have serious, untreated emotional issues.
Here's a list of the top five reasons why people go crazy over pumpkin-flavored things. And to all the holiday-flavor, peppermint-craving folks out there: We get you.
5. Pumpkins produce nostalgia
As a representation of autumn, pumpkins conjure up an idyllic picture of rural farm life that's appealing to those of us who live in fast-paced, urban settings. Funny story: Pumpkins used to be considered rustic, peasant food during colonial times, and up until the industrial revolution and migration to urban centers they remained basically a seasonal staple for poor folks. But pumpkins got re-branded sometime in the nineteenth century as wistful city dwellers began to wax poetic about country living, and pumpkins started cropping up in paintings, stories, poetry and even advertisements for products.
Pumpkins give urbanites a small taste of nostalgic rural living -- a lifestyle that, let's face it, we don't really want to explore in a serious way. We just wanna feel warm, fuzzy and farmy for a minute or two over a muffin.
4. Absence makes the tongue grow fonder
I don't know exactly whose brilliant marketing plan it was to only make pumpkin-flavored things available for limited times, but he/she/it has the touch of genius. I would love to see a glut of pumpkiny treats like bread, muffins, cake, pie, tarts, pasta sauce, cookies, pancakes, syrup, ravioli, candy and eggnog made available in every restaurant and store, all year long. But I also realize that my p-lust might abate if I had unfettered access to pumpkin dishes all the time.
After all, people want what they can't have, and limited access sure does make the first pumpkin latte of the season taste that much sweeter.
3. The passage of seasons is marked by the PSL
For the two or three people who have been living on a hippie commune that has sworn off coffee drinks, PSL stands for pumpkin spice latte, and many places have them. But Starbucks has elevated them to the status of art form -- for about $6 plus barista tip. This liquid pumpkin pie (with the friendly kick of espresso) topped with whipped cream did not use to be the harbinger of autumn; I'm pretty sure that the summer-to-fall change used to be heralded by non-coffee things like leaves turning, temperatures cooling and the first signs of lawn-death. But the organic, natural progression of seasons is now much less Farmer's Almanac and much more Facebook confirmation that Starbucks has gotten its supplies of pumpkin spice syrup.
No need to refer to calendars these days -- just check the chalkboard at Starbucks.
2. Spice is nice
Another funny-farm fact about pumpkin-flavored things is that many of them don't actually contain pumpkin. Check labels, and you'll see how many pumpkin-pimped products are flavored artificially -- and sans-pumpkin, rely on the autumnal trinity of nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger to sell fall fuzzies. It's a good guess that this came about thanks to the popularity of pumpkin pie -- sweet, custardy and liberally spiced -- and as a result most people can't differentiate between the taste of pumpkin and the spice trio that now defines it.
But I'm down for a measure of cognitive dissonance because plain, unadulterated pumpkin tastes like any other boring-ass squash. The addition of sugar and warm, woody, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and a dash of clove or allspice is just as much fall as the round, orange vegetable itself.
1. Pumpkins equal Halloween
Halloween is the best holiday, without a doubt. It's hard not to get all jizzed-up over a holiday that espouses everyone wearing bad makeup, dressing up like witches, goblins, serial killers and hookers, and collecting enough free candy to last until well past Thanksgiving. Pumpkins didn't always take center stage in the All Hallows Eve celebrations, though; back in the day, Europeans would carve traditional jack 'o lanterns from turnips. But in America, pioneers figure out that plump, carve-able pumpkins were way easier to masterpiece than rooty little turnips.
It just wouldn't be Halloween without pumpkins, and after the carving you get tasty roasted seeds and soup. Or at the very least, something to beat the tar out of a mini-Hershey's bar high.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.