Can We Stop With All the Pumpkin Spice Please?

A plea from the one white girl who hates this Fall favorite.

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Photo by Kira auf der Heide on Unsplash

“What’s the deal with you white girls and pumpkin spice?”

My friend Christine posed this question to me early in our friendship. We were waiting in line at Starbucks where signs announced the return of the pumpkin spice latte like it was the second coming of Christ.

“I don’t understand why your people are so obsessed with pumpkin spice and thigh gaps.”

I couldn’t answer that question, partly because I really hate pumpkin and pumpkin spice, but it did stick in my mind. Why is there so much fascination with pumpkin, particularly with white women? Am I the only white woman who hates pumpkin spice?

I went into Trader Joe’s recently, where I saw the following pumpkin or pumpkin spice “seasonal” items: bread, coffee cake, granola bars, cookies, ice cream, bisque, protein smoothies, bagels (regular or gluten-free), samosas, cereal and, of course, pumpkin spice coffee.

There was something pumpkin-related in every single aisle. It was crazy.

It turns out my friend is not the only one who has noted the strong correlation between whiteness and love of all things pumpkin.

In a study called “The Perilous Whiteness of Pumpkins” researchers looked at the relationship between pumpkins and whiteness, with a special emphasis on the ubiquitous Pumpkin Spice Latte from Starbucks.

Lead researcher Lisa Jordan Powell notes that pumpkin spice lattes are “firmly hitched to discussions of white female identity and consumerism as both a dismissive, racially coded slur and a rallying counterpoint”

Powell theorizes that pumpkin spice lattes became associated with white people because they are a luxury item which costs more than a regular coffee. It’s a treat for those who can plunk down $4.95 or more for a sweet and frothy concoction.

Starbucks PSLs are products of coffee shop culture, with its gendered and racial codes…Their fluffiness, lack of substance, and triviality, regardless of attempts to dismiss them as ‘basic,’ make them ultimate luxuries and hence markers of distinction and white privilege.”

When this study came out, the authors were excoriated by people who called the study frivolous or were outright angry that the study called out white privilege.

The study “is merely another example of cultural Marxism attempting to both undermine a traditional symbol of American history and culture and belittle a particular socioeconomic class,” one commentator complained.

He goes on to claim that the research is based on the “general narrative that’s become accepted as dogma at universities though it’s not entirely provable — in this case, systemic white privilege.”

The commentator, like the author of every angry article I saw denouncing the study, appears to be white. There’s nothing white people hate more than having their privilege pointed out to them.

Cultural significance aside, I really don’t understand why people like this stuff. Pumpkin itself is a sweet squash with an icky texture. And most “pumpkin spice” items don’t even have any pumpkin. Instead, it’s usually a mixture of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and clove — spices used in pies to mask the yukky taste of pumpkin.

People, this obsession with pumpkin and pumpkin spice is over-the-top and embarrassing. It’s time to embrace some of the better flavors of fall, like cranberries and gravy. Now that would make a good latte.

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