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The Tongva Times

The Tongva Times

The Tongva Times

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Pumpkin, spice, and everything nice

   In California, where most trees are evergreen and snow only falls in the mountains, the arrival of autumn is marked by crisp air and the transition from tank tops to turtlenecks. It is also defined by pumpkin spice products in every food establishment, from Jasmine Creamery’s Spiced Rum Pumpkin ice cream to Pumpkin Spice SPAM in the grocery store.

   According to Food & Wine magazine, “pumpkin spice” originally referred to the mixture of nutmeg, ginger, allspice, cloves, and cinnamon used to flavor pumpkin pie. The mix has been around since the 1700s, but Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte, invented in 2003, made it a seasonal staple.

   Pumpkin spice lattes (PSLs) are to autumn as Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” is to winter. Its warm, woody spiciness fills the nose, while a balance of sugary creaminess and apple-like tartness dances on the tongue. Since its debut, the PSL has tempted over 424 million Americans.

   In 2019, “Christian Girl Autumn” was born on Twitter, and PSLs became nearly synonymous with conservative white women. Yet the commercialization of pumpkin spice made the autumn aesthetic accessible to everyone. As Taylor Swift expressed on Tumblr in 2014, fall is about “not caring when people make fun of pumpkin flavored stuff because you LOVE IT”.

   The profitability of pumpkin spice capitalizes on a nostalgia for fall set deep in pop culture that the digital age has revolutionized.

   From cartoons like “Peanuts”, to TV shows like “Gilmore Girls”, to movies like “When Harry Met Sally”, images of fire-colored fall leaves and cozy outfits are cemented into the American psyche. Modern streaming platforms made these iconic autumn films available to a new generation of fall fans.

Courtesy of Spotify

   Digital music services like Spotify allow anyone to capture the essence of fall in a playlist of gentle jazz and stripped-back indie music. Spotify even cultivates an individualized “Autumn Mix” for every user. Their “pumpkin spice” playlist is appropriately self-described as “The cinnamon-infused, crisp-air-breathing, crunchy-leaves-walking, chunky-knit-wearing, seasonal-latte-drinking playlist”.

Courtesy of | Pinterest page of the autumn aesthetic

   This romanticization of autumn is furthered by social media. Anyone with an account can post a warm drink with a brown filter on Instagram, or scroll through Pinterest images of upstate New York’s golden fall foliage and books against muted orange tones. Social media brings together communities of people around the world who love fall.

   For me, pumpkin spiced products taste like curling up with a book on a rainy, overcast day. They encapsulate the comfort of being wrapped in the warmth of a blanket and binging “Gilmore Girls” while it’s cold outside. One sip of a PSL brings memories of baking cinnamon-filled chai sugar cookies, swaying to “Red” by Taylor Swift, and buying snacks from Trader Joe’s with friends.

   Starbucks’ unveiling of their holiday drinks and days that dip below 60 degrees marks the beginning of winter. Until autumn next year it is time to say goodbye to pumpkin, spice, and everything nice.


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About the Contributor
Sophia Pu
Sophia Pu, Editor in Chief
Sophia Pu is the Editor in Chief for the school newspaper, marking her fourth year with the team. Outside of her editorial duties, Sophia is involved in Speech and Debate and enjoys reading, traveling, and spending time in nature. Her commitment to the newspaper grew from a passion for interviewing a diverse range of individuals she might not have interacted with otherwise.
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