P.S. I Love You

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!

Some content sourced from the CNN Business article, “Oreo is bringing back this flavor after a 5-year hiatus:, and Wikipedia, “the free encyclopedia”.

Third-Wheel Meal

In last week’s ’tis the Seasonings post, I wondered why “ginger” and “red hair” were synonymous. Paula from Monday Morning Rail replied with the answer which probably trumps all others (thanks, Paula!).  Ginger Grant, the glam character from the sixties sitcom Gilligan’s Island had a healthy head of red hair.  Sometime after the sixties a “ginger” became a person with red hair.  I’m satisfied, so let’s move to a question more appropriate for this week.  Why is (America’s) Thanksgiving celebrated on a Thursday?

Yes, it’s time for my annual Thanksgiving rant.  Rather, my everything-steps-all-over-Thanksgiving rant.  It’s not really an annual rant but perhaps it should be.  Three years ago I had so much to vent about Thanksgiving’s due, it took me two blog posts to let off the steam (see A Distant Third).  This year I realized, zero progress has been made since then.  In fact, the situation is snowballing.  Thanksgiving is finding less and less air as it gasps between the behemoths known as Halloween and Christmas.

Poor choice of word, “snowballing”.  It’ll make readers think about Christmas and I need you to stay focused.  My campaign is to keep each of the year-end holidays corralled into its respective month.  In other words, November equals Thanksgiving. (Repeat ten times, please).  Turkeys and pumpkin pie, not Santas and plum pudding.

There, I said it.  Apologies to those of you who’ve already shopped and wrapped presents.  Apologies to the rest of you who’ve already decorated your houses.  I’m just trying to give Thanksgiving its rightful place among the “big three” instead of its laggard position as “third wheel”.

You can name a dozen things associated with Halloween, and two dozen more with Christmas.  But with Thanksgiving?  Three (at least here in America).  We have the meal itself, the parades, and football.  That’s pretty much it.

Let’s dig a little deeper into the American Thanksgiving trifecta.  The meal is hanging in there despite efforts to make it healthier.  Turkey, stuffing, and pumpkin pie are still Thanksgiving staples (while “tofurky” is not).  I sometimes wonder why I don’t enjoy these foods on other days of the year as well.  Also, more people make the Thanksgiving meal at home than order online or go to a restaurant. (Do I have the data to back this up?  No, I do not.)  But I must acknowledge Friendsgiving, which has become common enough to remove the quotation marks.  Not only is Friendsgiving celebrated on any day but Thursday, the table spread can be decidedly different. Watch out.  There may come a November when – GASP! – more people celebrate the “friends” version than the “family”.

Parades remain more about Thanksgiving than the other two holidays.  You’ll find the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on television this week and at the same time, Chicago, New Orleans, Philadelphia, and Plymouth, MA host large-scale parades.  But here’s my Davey-downer factoid.  The Macy’s Parade may be the world’s largest (as well as the second-oldest in America) but it’s also an imposter.  It began as the “Macy’s Christmas Parade” in 1924, designed to launch a longer retail season at the end of the year.  So you see, the name may have changed but the parade is still decidedly “holly-jolly”.

Football brings out the smirk in sports fans again this Thanksgiving.  As they have every year since 1934 (save the WWII years) the NFL’s Detroit Lions will be playing on Thanksgiving Day.  As they have been every year (seemingly), the Detroit Lions are a truly awful football team.  In the last twenty years the Lions have amassed exactly four winning seasons.  This year?  The Lions are the only team in the NFL without a win.  The Lions are so bad in fact, the NFL has added two other games to your Thanksgiving Day lineup so you have options.

We’re almost done here, but don’t panic; I haven’t forgotten the original question.  Why is Thanksgiving celebrated on a Thursday?  Here’s the easy answer.  President Lincoln made it so back in 1863, as the final Thursday in November.  President Roosevelt also made it so back in 1941, more specifically the fourth Thursday in November.  Yeah, but… why a Thursday?

Here’s the real answer (or at least my answer).  Thanksgiving is on a Thursday.  Thursday is named for the Norse God Thor.  Thor is the God of Thunder.  See the pattern?  Thanksgiving-Thursday-Thor-Thunder.  It’s the whole “Th” thing.  Thanksgiving doesn’t really fit on a Friday (but maybe Friendsgiving does).  Besides, by Friday we’ve forgotten all about turkey and stuffing as we turn to computers and shopping malls.

Now then, banish all that “Th” nonsense from memory.  The real intent here is to give Thanksgiving its proper time and space mid-holiday season.  Let’s move Turkey Day from “third wheel” to “equal wheel” by finding more Thanksgiving stakes to claim in the month of November.  Maybe we should all dress up as pilgrims.  Maybe we should also have our kids “trade” instead of “trick-or-treat”.

With that, I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving.  And next week, I might even wish you a Merry Christmas.  You know, in December.

Some content sourced from Wikipedia, “the free encyclopedia”.