… from the Perspectives’ Holiday Kitchen
How you doin’? It’s time to embrace Charlie Brown and the Great pumpkin and holiday spice. Pumpkin spice is a very polarizing flavor, and yet, every year dozens of new products flavored with pumpkin spice are launched.
While many people assume that pumpkin spice is synonymous with Starbucks and fall, the flavor was around long before Starbucks introduced its fan-favorite latte in 2003. First, let’s understand just how pumpkin spice became the official flavor of fall.
Pumpkin spice was originally just known as pumpkin pie spice. It is typically made with a blend of spices—ground cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and allspice. It doesn't actually have any pumpkin flavor in it; the spices above are what pumpkin pie is seasoned with which is likely how it got its name.
Pumpkin pies were first made by American pilgrims in the 1600s which is said to have included a version of pumpkin pie spice, referred to simply as "spices." Many other recipes throughout the years called for pumpkin pie spice, but there wasn't a universal recipe or store-bought spice mix seen (or tasted) until much later.
The McCormick Spice Company originally introduced the first commercially available pumpkin pie spice in 1934 and a similar blend is still sold today. After its launch, McCormick published recipes featuring its pumpkin pie spice. The company wanted the spice to be utilized far beyond the traditional pumpkin pie and pumpkin bread. The company featured the pumpkin pie spice in more savory dishes, like pumpkin fettuccine and pumpkin spice and apple soup.
Obviously, you don't see that many people reaching for the pumpkin spice to add to pasta as much as you see them adding it to desserts and coffee. Which is where Starbucks comes into the story.
The first Pumpkin Spice Latte was created in the R&D lab. The team behind the coffee drink wanted to create a fall beverage that could be as successful as its signature Christmas drinks.
Starbucks' pumpkin spice latte is made with espresso and pumpkin spice syrup—pumpkin puree, sugar and milk—with a whipped cream and pumpkin spice topping—made with cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and clove (sort of a pumpkin spice).
Since you can’t copywrite recipes, Pumpkin Spice Latte is now a staple on many other coffee chains’ menus… Dunkin', Tim Hortons, and even McDonald's, have mimicked its success with their own versions of this Fall beverage.
Today, pumpkin spice goes beyond coffee and desserts with brands introducing pumpkin-spice flavored cooking spray, pumpkin spice hummus, and even, heaven forbid… Pumpkin Spice Spam. Of course, there are non-food products too — like pumpkin spice-scented candles, bathroom sprays and yes, even underarm deodorant!
The nationwide love for pumpkin spice is credited to Starbucks' latte — which is proven every year when Starbucks launches the PSL and thousands of people take to social media to share their excitement. But the real reason we love pumpkin spice is actually caused by something happening in our brains.
The truth is, we don’t have any memory for taste. We have a memory for aroma and we don't love pumpkin spice so much for its taste, but because of its nostalgic scent. When you use your other senses (like sight, hearing, touch, and taste) that information is first sent to an area in the brain called the thalamus. After it passes through the thalamus, it goes to the specific area for processing that sense. Your sense of smell takes a different path.
Information about smells skips the thalamus and goes straight to the cortex. This gives odors in our environment (and in the foods we eat) a sort of direct access to higher-level processing areas in the brain. The primary brain area for processing odors (the piriform cortex) is anatomically close to, and intertwined with, brain areas involved in emotion and memory processing. This may be one of the reasons odors are able to evoke such vivid memories.
Because our perception of taste goes hand in hand with aromas, we taste (and in turn smell) pumpkin spice and our brain perceives it as a warm, happy Fall memory that we love to enjoy.
If you have a lot of nostalgia for the fall season, then an aroma that's strongly related to fall with a familiar name like pumpkin spiced latte would probably work really well to stimulate all those warm fuzzy feelings. It all comes down to how you perceive fall and your memories of the season.
Over the last 3-years we have included several recipes with this favorite Fall flavor and we will not fall short today. Try our Pumpkin Pancakes during this holiday season… they make a wonderful fall spice breakfast.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
1-1/2 cups whole milk
1 cup pumpkin puree (I prefer Libby)
1 large egg
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons vinegar
2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
cooking spray or unsalted butter
ChefSecret: Skip measuring all the spices; just add 1-1/2 tablespoons of prepared pumpkin pie spice instead.
Quip of the Day: Never iron a 4-leaf clover; that would be pressing your luck.
Do you have a question or comment? Send your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org. All recipes and cooking tips are posted on our website https://www.perspectives-la.com/covid-19-survival-guide.
To you and everyone dear to you, be strong, be positive, stay well, stay safe and be kind. Take a breath and count your blessings, and if you have a little extra to share with others, please consider donating to Feeding America and/or American Red Cross.
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