Everyone has that one thing that they don’t like that everyone else can’t seem to understand. For my roommate, Steph, that thing is bananas. She doesn’t understand why people feel the need to put bananas in bread, flavor candy with their abhorrent presence, or ruin ice cream with their potassium-filled yellowness. How Steph feels about bananas (coincidentally one of my all-time favorite flavors) is how I feel about pumpkin.
Now don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against pumpkins aesthetically. I am as pumped for #DecorativeGourdSeason as the next girl, and I’m a huge fan of them as holiday symbols. I would happily carve jack-o-lanterns forever while I wait with Linus for the Great Pumpkin. But the onset of autumn brings out a nationwide fanaticism for pumpkin of a different sort — that spice blend known as pumpkin flavor– and suddenly I find it everywhere, an adjective sprinkled in front of everything from bread to beer and more.
Maybe I just wasn’t brought up with this delusion that pumpkin “tastes like fall!” It’s certainly not what I think of when I think of things that taste like autumn, it being my favorite of the four seasons. Maybe it’s because pumpkin pie was never a tradition in my family, and since I didn’t drink coffee until I moved to New York, I missed the initial induction into the cult of the pumpkin spice latte.
But as I walk the streets of the city, woefully under-dressed and sullen because I fear we may have skipped beloved autumn altogether this year and moved directly to winter (with a bizarre week-long detour back to summer — Mother Nature, what are you doing to me?!), I find myself overwhelmed by the reign of that orange vegetable (I work in Midtown, where there’s a Starbucks every 100 feet, so I am never free from that basic betch drink of choice: PSL is always watching).
To me, fall tastes like smokey charcoal on a tailgate grill, crisp apples picked directly from the tree or made into cider, hot black tea with an earthy aroma, shortbread cookies and cinnamon, and sweet potatoes fried with honey for dipping. So to you, out there in the ether, I say, “Down with our pumpkin overlords! May a new taste of fall arise!” Here are some suggestions if you’re with me and you want to avoid the all-too-prevalent cult of the pumpkin.
Firstly, coffee: The over-exposure of the pumpkin spice latte must end. It’s everywhere — Trevor Noah is even making jokes about it on The Daily Show, — so I think it’s high time for a new flavor of fall. Allow me to introduce maple. New Yorkers, Brooklyn Roasting Company has your hook-up with their signature Maple Shay (basically a maple latte, but named for a presumably delightful individual named Shay). More of a drip coffee person? Swap out your usual sugar or simple syrup for maple syrup. Mmm, the taste of fall.
Secondly, beer. All of my friends know that I just don’t understand the clamor over pumpkin beer. I don’t like it, and yet it still invades the shelves of my favorite stores with its gaudy orange labels and artificial fall-ness. To me, the best fall beers are not so in your face with their autumn flavors. As an alternative to all the Pumkings, the Punkin’s, and the He Saids, go for a Rauchbier, whose smokey taste always reminds me of fall. My favorite is the Schlenkerla Marzen, a German style traditionally served at Oktoberfest (how appropriate). Runners up include Stillwater’s Autumnal (for those who want that subtler roastiness and farmhouse yeast) and Moody Tongue’s Caramelized Chocolate Churro Baltic Porter (because chocolate+ churro+beer=magic).
Thirdly, dessert. Oh Schmackary’s, you bastion of New York Noms, thou failed me when you put out your pumpkin spice cookie. [Zelda’s note: BUT IT’S SO DAMN DELICIOUS!] It’s okay, I understand; there was a market demand, and as an independent business you had to meet that demand, but why must people demand pumpkin spice when you have so many other amazing fall flavors to choose from? Next time you’re at my favorite New York cookie shop craving a fall fix, may I suggest the Candied Yam or Sweet Corn cookies. These flavor substitutes work for colder treats as well: Sweet Corn Ice Cream, I promise, will change your life (I had it on a hot summer night in Ohio from local purveyor Jeni’s, but I’m positive ‘twould suit the harvest season just as well).
Now go forth, my pretties, topple our pumpkin overlords with the power of new and old fall flavors! Bring them down with maple lattes and sweet corn ice cream. Raise a glass full of Rauchbier to a new era in autumnal dining. And lest I forget, do not hesitate to be apple AF (’tis the season after all). As for pumpkins, they’re more than welcome to take over my decor: Just stay away from my diet.