Tonight I am enjoying this:
I’m sure you’re curious, so here’s what it looks like:
There’s just something about seasonal drinks, isn’t there? Hazelnut lattes, gingerbread lattes, praline hot chocolates, mint hot chocolates… and of course, the infamous Pumpkin Spice Latte.
It’s something of a cultural artifact. And since that’s becoming pretty much the theme of my blog at this point, I might as well take a moment to reflect on it. I mean, what’s it all about?
I don’t remember it being a thing more than a few years ago, though that might just be because I haven’t really been drinking coffee all that long. But the longshot of it is this: it’s a drinkable version of that humble american classic: the pumpkin pie.
Yes, pumpkin pie. Something we don’t really have here in the UK. Because pumpkins are weird. Nobody knows what they are really, or what they’re for other than carving jack o’ lanterns with. The idea of making them into pies is pretty weird, and making them into LATTES even weirder.
And since when is ‘pumpkin’ a spice anyway? Where’s the spice coming from? The seeds or something? Remember, a pumpkin is a squash, like a marrow or zucchini. How come we’re not eating butternut pies or gourd lattes?
Because it would be super weird, that’s why. Now think how weird your pumpkin spice latte is.
But of course that doesn’t change the fact that it’s strangely delicious. It’s much the same as its estranged cousin, the gingerbread latte, but it’s got something of an edge about it that you can’t quite place your finger on. The fact it’s a Starbucks exclusive also gives it an air of mystery, as if it’s a special recipe that only they’ve been able to crack.
Not that it’s some kind of high cuisine though. From what I can tell, it’s just a usual mix of ‘christmas time’ spices – cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, etc. – with some random pumpkin flavouring thrown into the mix.
It should go without saying too that it’s pretty terrible for you. Here’s an infographic that sums it up nicely:
Yup, all predictably evil. But we all already know Starbucks is evil. Blah blah blah.
What I’m more interested in is the cultural reception of this drink. It’s gone from being a curious yuletide offering to a fullblown institution. The reason for the season in fact for some people, if social media is to be believed.
Just search Twitter for pumpkin spice latte. People go absolutely nuts over it. Yes, it even has its own page:
How terribly grim. But there are worse things I suppose.
What is pretty fascinating though is the “pumpkin spice latte white girl” meme though. That being the online mockery of young women in society who wear yoga pants, take selfies, and drink pumpkin spice lattes.
It’s a weirdly specific stereotype, but one that seems unusually rooted in reality. I literally know people who fit the profile down to a T. And that’s weird, because it’s such a known stereotype at this point.
Which brings us to an interesting Euthyphro’s Dilemma for the 21st century. We have two possibilities for explaining the pumpkin spice phenomenon:
1) It’s a wholly accurate stereotype, perfectly describing an entire subset of the population who are in turn absolutely oblivious to the fact we’re all laughing at them.
2) The pumpkin spice generation are absolutely aware of their reputation but live up to it regardless. Or perhaps, they live up to it BECAUSE of the reputation.
I compare it to Euthyphro’s Dilemma then because the question is around the causation thus: is PSL a thing we mock because of its ubiquity, or is it ubiquitous because it’s a thing we all mock?
If the latter, we’re assuming a certain level of sophistication and self-awareness among this demographic. And I’m just not….sure… that’s….all….there… I just don’t think they’re doing the whole hipster ironic thing (though obviously that’s what I’m doing every time I order a PSL, giggling to myself with the naughtiness of it all).
The explanation I’d favour instead would be simply that it’s something said generation are aware of. They know we’re all talking about it, and rather than risk missing out on ANYTHING trendy, they leap in head first, hashtagging all the way.
Overall then, is it a good or bad thing for society? I suppose it doesn’t matter. It’s not inherently beneficial or harmful (I mean to any greater extent than our general latte-obsession lately). It’s obviously disappointing that it’s something so many people engage in without demonstrating an appreciable level of self-awareness, but maybe I’m just underestimating these folk.
Either way, it’s pretty damn tasty.