I used every pumpkin spice product I could find for a week. Now my armpits smell like nutmeg.


Pumpkin spice is not a flavor, it’s a lifestyle. Its mantra is the crackle of fallen leaves and bonfires. “Sweater weather” is its holy creed. The pumpkin spice life, like its coffee, is sweet, and you are always #thankful for your #blessings. It was never really about that particular blend of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, ginger and allspice, but how it makes us feel: warm, nostalgic, loved.

Corporations would like us to experience these feelings when we think of their products, and that’s how we got to the place we are today: Where the debut of the Starbucks pumpkin spice latte is more eagerly anticipated than any blockbuster film. And where a person can go to the grocery store and pick up dozens of pumpkin spice products, from kefir to dog treats.

Which is exactly what I did, for one nutmeg-laden week: Any time I encountered a pumpkin-themed product, I bought it. My cart overflowed with orange packaging for cereal, candy, cookies, tea, coffee, gluten-free frozen waffles, pasta sauce, cheese, paper towels and scented candles. I looked completely deranged.

I ended up with more than 40 products. I’m writing this story after a breakfast of pumpkin spice toast, pumpkin spice yogurt with pumpkin granola, and an iced pumpkin spice chai, sitting next to a flickering pumpkin spice candle, because I am seeking pumpkin spice enlightenment. Like going on a silent meditation retreat, I have immersed myself in the pumpkin spice lifestyle, and it is equal parts embarrassing and exhilarating, but that’s probably just the seven-day sugar binge talking.

To write about pumpkin spice is to write about a particular species of American: The Basic. Short for Basic (Expletive). She revels in conventional pursuits like Nicholas Sparks novels, wearing leggings and brunch. The term originated in hip-hop and was co-opted by white women, and somewhere in that process, pumpkin spice became the ultimate symbol of basicness — sweet, bland, unoriginal. To call someone basic is classist, because typically, it’s the wealthy who can afford to cultivate less conventional tastes. But the insult has been reclaimed by its victims: There are essays about how women are “proud to be basic,” and, in turn, proud to love pumpkin spice.

This time of year, you can ...

Goran Kosanovic, The Washington Post

This time of year, you can eat pumpkin-spice foods all day long.

Before embarking on my pumpkin spice binge, I decided to assess the situation by taking a BuzzFeed “How basic are you?” quiz. Yes, I checked off, I love bagels, but no, I don’t like them “scooped.” I take barre classes, but I don’t say “margs” instead of “margaritas” (shudder). The verdict came back: a score of 16 out of 119, “not basic at all.” I had a lot of work to do.

It started with a trip to my local Giant on Labor Day, the day before the PSL, as it’s called, hit Starbucks for the season. It was 85 degrees and sunny outside, but I was stocking up on autumn: pumpkin spice Chobani yogurt, Pillsbury pumpkin spice cinnamon rolls, Land O’ Lakes pumpkin spice “butter spread,” Belvita pumpkin spice breakfast biscuits. That night, I watched as Starbucks completed an 80-hour Facebook broadcast with the “hatching” of the season’s first PSL, named “Fall’icia.” Fans were commenting furiously.

“The pumpkin is pregnant, Melissa,” one said, explaining the strange tableau: a pumpkin sitting in a bird’s nest, with a fog machine just off screen.

“Hope it’s fog and not smoke … not good for the baby,” posted another woman.

“Can she give birth already? I have to watch Bachelor in Paradise,” a third posted.

And then the blessed virgin pumpkin gave birth to Fall’icia, and wrapped her in a heat-resistant cardboard sleeve and placed her in a manger, for there was no room at the Starbucks. And an angel of the Basics appeared to them and said: “Glory to Fall in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those who wear North Face jackets and love Taylor Swift.”



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