Don’t laugh; it could happen. Probably actually is. That’s the state we are in: masked up and everything pumpkin spice. I realized this yesterday as I strolled through the grocery store (unmasked BTW) and saw just a few masks but a ton of pumpkin spice everything. Yes, there was the requisite supply of the “Three Cs of Pumpkin Spice:” coffee, creamers, and candles, but who knew people have a craving for pumpkin spice butter, hummus, cereal, crackers, chips, and even oatmeal, which I, guilty as charged, recently purchased at Trader Joe’s. It’s crazy out there people!
Blame it on Starbucks.
The coffee chain claims credit for any and all pumpkin spice phenomenon, which they introduced to the the masses back in 2003. Today, Starbucks sells 20 million pumpkin spice lattes each year and it is their top-selling seasonal beverage of all time. Shocker. Funny thing is, the drink contains no pumpkin but instead is merely topped with pumpkin spice, which is a blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, and ginger.
I’m a coffee lover and always say I like a little coffee with my creamer, but a pumpkin spice latte lover I’m not. I’ll drink one now and then during this time of year, but you won’t find me in line for one or buying the coffee to use at home. But, I do love fall and I enjoy pumpkin scented candles and pumpkin bread. Don’t even get me started on pumpkin pie though, which is my absolute favorite.
So what is it about all things pumpkin and particularly pumpkin spice? Turns out it’s all about not our mouths and taste buds, but our noses and sense of smell.
According to Johns Hopkins University, it’s not the taste of the favorite fall flavor, but instead the smell of it and the associations it bubbles up. Apparently of all the senses, smell is uniquely tied to memory. In fact, the part of the brain that processes odors sits right next to the part that processes memories. Close your eyes and think about this for a minute. Think about fresh baked bread or freshly-baked chocolate chip cookies. Does your mind go to how they taste or how they smell and a memory associated with them?
This year’s pumpkin spice barrage started in August, weeks before fall actually began, and we can count on it to hit us annually and circle back next year. Coincidentally, Johns Hopkins found that the more you’re exposed to something, the more it ingrains itself in your preferences so by simply experiencing pumpkin spice everything every year, the more familiar and reassuring that scent becomes. Even though the lattes and popcorn haven’t been around forever, they now bring with them a certain nostalgic comfort and pleasant anticipation. Being that our sense of smell inspires memories, light those candles and baked that pumpkin bread!
But back to fall. I may not love pumpkin spice lattes but I love fall. I love everything about it: the weather, the clothing, football, and Thanksgiving. I’m not a Halloween fan though, so my fall décor is all things pumpkins and harvest. No scary or ghoulish things at Carla’s home. But, there will be lots of pumpkins; lots of pumpkins. Maybe this year I’ll add some pumpkin flavored coffee creamer and noodles just to spice things up. My sense of smell and pumpkin spice manufacturers everywhere will be ever so grateful.