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Is It Outrageous to Drink a Pumpkin Spice Latte in April?

April  1, 2016

You already know that Starbucks serve Pumpkin Spice Lattes seasonally—after Labor Day and until the holiday drinks take over—and the hype each year is extreme.

Don’t for one second think this is about the drink itself (which I once heard someone describe a P.S.L. as a “a candle in beverage form”)—this is about the ritual. About celebrating the arrival of fall. About honoring nature’s change of seasons through one that is Made in America.

So when I heard Starbucks was releasing a Pumpkin Spice Latte K-Cup, essentially making the P.S.L. a year-round commodity, I was kind of sad. The whole point is to join the other yoga pants in line and make yourself sick on them over a span of two months… so you can forget how vile they are in time to do it again next year.

That goes for all things pumpkin, actually. Even if most of us are opening a can rather than roasting our own fresh-from-the-patch purée, there’s an unspoken rule: In fall, we eat pumpkin. The rest of the year, it can’t sit with us.

I’ll cop to making pumpkin bread in July (it was a heat wave! I needed to play pretend inside my air-conditioned apartment!)… but it never tastes as good as it does in September. To me, pumpkin is emotionally seasonal, no matter the can from whence it came.

So okay, pumpkin is technically seasonal. But what about Mallomars, the marshmallow-filled, chocolate-covered cookie that’s only available September through March? The Mallomar “season” was devised back in 1913 to make sure the chocolate coating wouldn’t melt in non-refrigerated delivery trucks. Now, it’s a marketing ploy that keeps the hype (and the hoarders) in full force.

The same could be said of Girl Scout cookies (must fill freezer with Thin Mints) or Reese’s “Eggs” (so much better than plain old “Cups,” let’s be real) or Cupid's Mix M&Ms. By creating a perceived scarcity, corporations drive customers to buy these limited-edition goods… even if there’s virtually no difference between regular M&Ms and the pastel ones that went on sale last Monday.

Basically, we’re all pawns in a bunch of fake seasons that don’t exist. But I’ll play, because truth be told, the wait makes it that much sweeter when they come. Go ahead, drink your P.S.L. in April if you must. But promise you’ll still wait in line with me next fall.

What other foods are emotionally seasonal? Tell us in the comments!

1 Comment

Kate K. April 1, 2016
Thanks for this article! I love thinking about boundaries between real seasons and cultural seasons (and capitalist food corporation seasons?). Very recently I was working at a cafe where we kept our bottle of pumpkin spice sauce up front in the condiment fridge all winter and all spring solely for the benefit of one super-cute, super-regular Chinese law student. Jenny had zero associations of pumpkin spice lattes with fall, but apparently a lot of associations with pumpkin spice lattes and studying for presentations.