The pumpkin spice of August

Retailers are rushing the season: while little pumpkins peek out from the ironweed and goldenrod of late summer, the scent of pumpkin spice suntan oil blankets the beaches, heralding a torrent of pumpkin spice lattes soon to be sweeping through city streets. No, it’s not your addled perceptions, it’s an actual thing.

From NBC News, “Autumn arrives earlier than ever for Starbucks and others with pumpkin menu items: The number of limited-time pumpkin launches more than doubled to 86 in August 2022 compared with 2019”, by Amelia Lucas (CNBC) on 8/31:

In most of the U.S., tree foliage is green and temperatures are warm. But for many restaurants and retailers, fall is already here.

Halloween candy and pumpkin spice lattes used to wait until after Labor Day to make their annual debuts, ushering in the start of fall several weeks before the season officially begins. But in the past few years, restaurants and retailers have been releasing their autumnal food and beverages even earlier.

… [But] fear not — plenty of companies are sticking to normal seasonal boundaries.

Reynolds’ Hefty isn’t releasing its cinnamon pumpkin spice-scented trash bags until September.

Below, there will be a brief refresher about the substance and its cartoon career, just so I can replay Bob Eckstein’s charming cartoon about pumpkin cartoon-memes, from last fall; Bob has now turned this into the logo for his newsletter on substack, so I can give you this version:

Three cartoon memes: Seeker and Seer / Wise Man, Sisyphus, Desert Island — see my 11/1/22 posting “Every meme is better with a pumpkin in it”

Suppose I just showed you the first of these, out of the blue, without any background or information (all that stuff I’ve just been feeding you) — a pumpkin on a ledge outside a mountain cave — what would you need to bring to it to understand why I might find it so irresistibly funny that I smile every time I see it, sometimes break into happy laughter?

The substance. From NOAD:

compound noun pumpkin spice: a mixture of spices including cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves, used especially to flavor the filling of pumpkin pies; pumpkin pie spice: beat in pumpkin spice and heavy cream at low speed.

But then Starbucks introduced its pumpkin spice lattes, and the craze was on.

Its cartoon career. From my 10/23/17 posting “The pumpkin spice cartoon meme”:

[A Kaamran Hafeez cartoon] is at the end of a series of mocking Pumpkin Spice cartoon memes, ranging from the most concrete (on pumpkin spice lattes, especially as a sign of the fall), through pumpkin spice more generally as a flavor (especially in foods that wouldn’t normally have such a flavor), and then just a scent (especially in non-food products [AZ: note the Hefty bags above]), to the fully abstract sense in [the Hafeez, pumpkin spice ‘top of the line, top-grade, high-end’].


2 Responses to “The pumpkin spice of August”

  1. Robert Coren Says:

    Reynolds’ Hefty isn’t releasing its cinnamon pumpkin spice-scented trash bags until September.

    The implied threat that such creatures will in fact be released is rather terrifying.

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