When it comes to snack foods, I’m not a fan of variations on a theme. Kellogg’s Pop-Tarts debuted in the 1960s with just four flavors: strawberry, blueberry, apple, and brown sugar cinnamon. Today you choose from more than twenty Tarts, including “Hot Fudge Sundae”. The original Triscuit cracker was a baked whole wheat square with a little salt. Today you’ll find a dozen Triscuit flavors on the shelf, including “Fire Roasted Tomato & Olive Oil”. Then we have the Oreo cookie. The original, of course, was two chocolate wafers sandwiching just the right amount of vanilla cream filling. Now Oreo flavors are too numerous to count. But there’s one you can be sure is a whopping success: pumpkin spice.
Welcome to mid-September, Americans, and the beginning of our pumpkin spice delirium. For the next two months you can expect an endless parade of “P.S.” product advertisements. My wife & I, we’ve already caved to the obsession. We have a package of “Pumpkin Spice Snaps” sitting on the counter. We have two leftover pieces of this year’s first homemade pumpkin pie sitting in our frig. And it’s only a matter of time before my car veers off the road and right through a Starbucks drive-thru for one of their classic P.S. lattes. (I’ll take a grande, if you please).
My daughter just reminded me Starbucks also brings back their pumpkin cream cold brew this time of year. That’s a good one too but let’s be real: none of Starbucks’ P.S. offerings should be considered “coffee”. We buy them for the spice and the sweet, not for the taste of the beans underneath.
Lest you think Starbucks gets the credit for our pumpkin spice mania, the record must be set straight. McCormick and Company, they of the little red-capped spice bottles, debuted their “Pumpkin Pie Spice” in 1934. At least three of the following are in the bottle: cinnamon, ginger, allspice, cloves, and nutmeg. Do I have this spice blend? Yes. Do I use it? Heck, no. My wife’s family recipe for pumpkin pie contains a different proportion of the individual spices than McCormick’s, which may be the secret to its delectable flavor. Plus, pumpkin pie is easy enough to make without having the spices combined for you. Dump the ingredients into a bowl and mix well. Pour into a pie shell. Bake. My kind of dessert.
Starbucks can’t even take the credit for the first P.S. latte. That accolade goes to Mexico’s Candle Company in 1995. The Starbucks version debuted eight years later. But you could argue Starbucks kicked off the forever-trend where we infuse P.S. into everything imaginable, including the good (Krispy Kreme doughnuts, Cheerios, candles) and the ridiculous (lip balm, deodorant, beer). As of 2016, “pumpkin spice consumables” accounted for an annual market of over $500M. Yep, we’re hooked.
The “Pumpkin Spice Flavored Creme Oreo” is not even an Oreo, at least not in my pantry. Nabisco attached the word “Oreo” but c’mon, let’s just admit it’s a seasonal wolf in sandwich cookie clothing. “Golden” Oreo cookies… with “festive pumpkin spice flavored cream” (and is it cream or creme?) Nope, the only Oreos in my book are black and white, though I will allow shelf space for the “Double Stuf” variety.
I’m not sure why this topic caught my eye because I haven’t had an Oreo in years. The last time I did I realized the taste was different from the Oreo of my youth. The cookies are not as soft, and there’s less cream filling in between (which is like messing with the ratio of chocolate and peanut butter in a Reese’s, a sin for all mankind). Like the misfortune of many other snack foods though, size and ingredients change for the sake of profit. And new varieties pop up to keep consumers buying. At least we’re not talking about the Lady Gaga Oreo. You’ll need your sunglasses for that one.
Now you’ll excuse me as I head off to a doctor’s appointment. My drive will take me past several Starbucks, which means I could be caving to my first P.S. latte of the season. Not that I’m worried about missing out. As soon as the P.S. season is over I can look forward to Starbucks’ Chestnut Praline latte all the way through New Year’s Day. Now we’re talking!