A Case For Pumpkin Spice

DarrinMell_WebIn recent years the comforting sounds of fall, the cool breezes rustling up fallen leaves and the scurrying of animals preparing for winter, have been joined by an ever-growing chorus of voices from two sides of a strangely divisive argument.

Do you love or hate the Pumpkin Spice Latte?

Some people are innately critical of any product offered by the coffee giant Starbucks (or as a friend of mine calls it, “Five-Bucks”) and wouldn’t admit to liking the drink even if it tasted like heaven dipped in gold with a wrapper made of joy.

Some people simply don’t like the taste. Some people hate anything and everything pumpkin. And, increasingly, some people are just tired of hearing about it.

It is a bit strange that an espresso-based drink from a chain café would have its own Twitter account (@TheRealPSL if you’re curious) and be worthy of a headline story at most major news outlets, but there’s something deeper here worth looking into.

There’s a story being overlooked and it is much more important than the conflict over whether or not you’re going gaga for a little caffeine and a ton of syrup mixed together in a white paper cup.

When Starbucks introduced the PSL in 2003 they were simply looking to expand on their holiday drink success, not inadvertently start a pumpkin revolution.

Not only does nearly every café in the country now serve a version of the PSL, but there is also a hunger (quite literally) for pumpkin flavored goods of all kinds. (There are now even Pumpkin Spice Latte M&M’s!)

The pumpkin flavor trend seems overwhelming and strange in our modern society but it harkens back to a time not so long ago when seasonal produce overload was the norm.

Eating “in season” was a way of life for farm families in America until the proliferation of factory faming over the last few decades.

We’ve gotten away from eating within the confines of the time and place in which we live. In our local grocery stores we are able to purchase items from all over the globe at any time.

While this may be a wonderful thing for us as consumers, there are negative consequences, too.

The fossil fuels used to transport these products contribute to global warming, the long transport times mean compromising on freshness, and local businesses struggle to compete in the market (often leading to declining local economies).

Our needs for convenience and variety have facilitated a food industry that is bad for both the environment and us.

The argument for a return to a more seasonal approach to eating is logical and beneficial in a multitude of ways. It doesn’t have to mean an entire overhaul to our lifestyle. It should be a conscious thought in our minds; a thought that guides us in a healthier direction and broadens our diets, not restricts them.

It could start with something as simple as choosing the latte with “pumpkin” in the name during the fall, instead of the quadruple chocolate chip mocha frappe extreme.

The new recipe for the PSL at Starbucks, released just this year on September 8th, now contains real pumpkin for the first time.

This was in response to public complaints over the “fake” ingredients being used. While this drink is still a far cry from an environmentally friendly (or healthy) product, it has done one very important job.

It has brought back into public consciousness the concept of seasonal produce, and with it, the possibility of a more sustainable, healthy, financially beneficial way of life.

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