Fall brings many things that people love: cooler weather, brightly colored leaves, cozy sweaters and the now ubiquitous pumpkin spice. If you are on social media, for sure you have seen a large variety of pumpkin spiced products, some real and some created using a little Photoshop such as pumpkin spice contact solution.
Here is the thing though; I do not consider the obsession with pumpkin spice to be tacky, if anything it is simply an overcorrection for something lacking in the American palate: Spice.
At its core pumpkin spice may or may not contain actual pumpkin, but it always contains cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice and cloves. These spices are integral to most cuisines, but they are used sparingly in the American kitchen.
Most cultures use these spices in various teas, liquors, hot and cold beverages and even sodas. Most people should be familiar with Masala Chai, Horchata, Ginger Beer, Café de Olla, Cider, Mulled wine, etc. I feel like there is a legitimate craving for these flavors that is only partially quenched by a pumpkin spiced beer or latte.
But those spices do not just belong in our drinks; they belong in our food too. Most stews benefit from a cinnamon stick that you remove before serving, much like you would with a bay leaf. Ginger, allspice and cloves should be as welcome as pepper is, adding depth and flavor to the meats and vegetables we consume. Our sauces should contain those pleasing aromas that we waste on candles and air fresheners.
Ultimately my argument is not so much a defense of pumpkin spice, but recognition of why we crave it. We want to spice up our lives, and commercially we only get to do it a few months out of the year. My prescription is to catch up with the rest of the world, perhaps by sampling their spiced foods and beverages. And once you start having these spices year round, you will find that you are just as excited for winter, spring and summer as well.