Culture

The great pumpkin spice debate

Shannon Proudfoot, pumpkin spice correspondent, breaks down the pros and cons of everyone's favourite fall spice blend

It’s almost difficult to remember now that pumpkin spice is an actual, uh, spice blend—of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves—used in pumpkin pie given how ubiquitous the faux version has become, thanks to the popularity of Starbucks’ pumpkin spice latte. Once a cult-favourite harbinger of fall, pumpkin spice has morphed into a season in its own right—and, somehow, a lifestyle of sorts?

Pros

It’s freaking delicious

Have you ever tasted this stuff? It is stupendous—a birthday cake’s worth of sweet, with just enough spice pungency to prevent it from being cloying. Okay, that is a bald-faced lie, it’s like eating a can of frosting with a stick, but that’s nice.

The antidote to suck

The pumpkin spice latte is a hug in a cup, and we could all use warm fuzzies right about now. Let us never become too cool to be basic, if basic is wonderful. (Yes, a sentient pair of Uggs did write this, why do you ask?)

Full disclosure

Your correspondent is writing this with a pumpkin spice latte candle glimmering on her desk, so she is not a disinterested party. But it smells like blanket scarves, tastefully arranged bales of hay and blind hope for a complete school year.

Cons

Why must everything be a thing?

Pumpkin spice Spam, Kraft Dinner, sausage, deodorant, dog treats, Pringles, various unholy breakfast cereal permutations and *dry heaves* hummus prove we have tried to fly too close to the sun.

The Cadbury Mini-Eggs problem

Those things used to be available only at Easter, and this limited-time-only quality made them special. Now, they are everywhere all the time, and that ubiquity has cost them some sparkle. Pumpkin spice is headed that same way.

Whatever that is, it ain’t PS

The flavour and scent we accept as “pumpkin spice” is but a funhouse-mirror simulacrum, a cloying mix of potpourri, marshmallows and whatever a dollar store scented marker labelled “pumpkin” smells like.


This article appears in print in the November 2021 issue of Maclean’s magazine with the headline, “‘The debate: Pumpkin Spice.’” Subscribe to the monthly print magazine here.