When did pumpkin flavored everything become a thing? When did “a thing” become the catch phrase for the latest craze? I’ll let the language archeologists figure out the latter but about the former…when did Americans become so pumped up about pumpkin?
When I was a kid I only knew three varieties of pumpkin: the one that moms carved out for Halloween, the pie on the bakery shelf, and pumpkin filling in the can. Oh, and four if you count the pumpkin cardboard cutouts your teacher would use to decorate the classroom during October and November. And that is it.
As for the pie – it was served once, if at all. I am pretty sure I grew up in an apple pie family. Not sure if anyone else was a fan of pumpkin or had the opportunity to become one. Before the days of doublewide freezers and GladWare and all the other stuff currently available to store food in, back then it was served, eaten, and forgotten about. No need bringing in a pie if only one slice was going to be extracted and no sense leaving it laying around the kitchen for an entire week.
But now it seems pumpkin “flavored” everything is everywhere, if you live in the right places of course. Cookies, bread, coffee creamers, cakes, donuts, breakfast treats, to name just a few items that produce a seasonal themed variety of their traditional stock. I have shared a few snapshots of my grocery aisle discoveries, and friends in other parts of the country have shared theirs, and not all states are created equal. Our compared notes reveal that I have access to some items that they do not and vice versa. And my poor cousins across the pond seem completely without pumpkin flavored anything, except of course the real pumpkin, as they keep commenting, “Wish we had that here!” and so on.
I am too busy taste testing all the glorious pumpkin flavored treats that I really do not have time to write to the front offices of all these places and ask, “Pardon me, but when did you decide that pumpkin flavored lip balm would be a good idea?” The idea must have started somewhere, sometime, and to my trained consumer eye that time was somewhat recent. Sure, Anne Bancroft received an Academy Award nomination for “The Pumpkin Eater” (released 1964) and CBS premiered “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” in 1966 but I cannot be convinced that either of those two occurrences started any hearts beating in the flavor labs of mad food scientists.
And truth be told, I am not sure if any of these items actually taste like pumpkin. I think they do, sometimes I think I taste more cinnamon than pumpkin, but what do I know? I have never carved a pumpkin and thrown the guts into a frying pan or roasting tin to find out, and I’m not going to start now. Why spoil the fun? And, yes, I know many of these items are sold as “pumpkin spice” flavored and even I know pumpkin is not a spice, but, as asked previously, why spoil the fun?
And no, I have not tried the pumpkin flavored lip balm. Even I draw the line. Maybe.