Pumpkin spice and everything nice? Depends on who you ask ...

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Perhaps nothing marks fall better than the turning leaf colors, cooler nights, shorter days, and pumpkin spice?



Hmmm. If it seems like pumpkin pie spice, better known popularly by its widely marketed name, "pumpkin spice," is everywhere this time of year, you're probably right. According to a recent report by the The Nielsen Company, sales of products that include pumpkin as an ingredient totaled $1.14 billion for the year-ended Sept. 2, 2017, up 3.5 percent year-over-year and up 20 percent from two years ago.

That's a lot of pumpkin.

Even with pumpkin spice's popularity, its reviews are, um let's just say, mixed.



Actor Sarah Corey, in the area to star in Oldcastle Theatre Company's final production of the 2017 season, Neil Simon's "Broadway Bound," said she uncovered a delicious local version at the Village Chocolate Shoppe on Main Street in Bennington, Vt.



"Full disclosure, I haven't done a two-show day yet without a slice of both the pumpkin spice and chocolate fudge between shows, after a nap and dinner," Corey said. "All hail the Village Chocolate Shoppe, my secret weapon!"



Let's all give Corey a pass; she didn't go overboard, and when pressed revealed that she approached this whole pumpkin spice thing with a grain of chiffon.



"I enjoy it with the right things," Corey said. "I've always loved my grandma and mom's pumpkin chiffon pie, which we have every Thanksgiving. I'm definitely not a PS fanatic, but I love pumpkin bread, pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin cheesecake, anything reasonable, which probably existed before the current PS frenzy."



Still, when asked, it seems like no one could rattle off the top of their head what exactly pumpkin spice was.



That is, until a very nice gum-chewing (PS?) lady in Williamstown, Mass., who identified herself only as Sheila S this reporter out. She and her family were visiting from Ohio ("to see the foliage — where is it?"). Standing outside of Spice (ahem!) Root Indian Cuisine while sipping a PS latt , Sheila S. shrugged her shoulders in response: "It's not that big a deal," she said. "It's just like nutmeg, cinnamon, I think maybe ginger or something and pretty much whatever else you want to add. Hang on a sec."



Fiddling on a smartphone that looked as big as the old Encyclopedia Britannica, Sheila S. pulled up her allrecipes.com app, and after a few finger taps showed off its search results:



Pumpkin pie spice

(Courtesy of Penilu @allrecipes,com, via Sheila S. from Ohio)

INGREDIENTS:

cup ground cinnamon

4 teaspoons ground nutmeg

4 teaspoons ground ginger

1 tablespoon ground allspice

DIRECTIONS:

Combine cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and allspice together in a bowl. Store in air-tight container.



How could Sheila S. possibly chew gum and drink that coffee at the same time? The gum had to be PS, too.



A bit farther down Route 2, Doug Wright, a retired police officer from Stamford, Vt., who often shops at the Super Stop and Shop in North Adams, isn't one such acolyte.



Seen in that parking lot with a bag of groceries, Wright shook his head when asked about the PS phenomenon.



"I never thought I'd see pumpkin spice ravioli, of all things, on a grocery store shelf," Wright said. "What's next? I think there was pumpkin spice pasta sauce, too. Yuck. Just make dessert already and skip the Italian dinner."



Wright may have been closer to home than he knew.



This writer's sister, Daphne, who used to bake the most wonderful pumpkin pies at Thanksgiving decades ago, now lives in Greece, and got wind of this article. The filial response was lighting swift: "OMG, the PSV is everywhere," Daphne wrote in a personal message on Facebook, after responding to a crowdsourcing inquiry about PS by yours truly.



"What's the V?"



"Virus," she fired back. "Yea, I've seen pumpkin spice Greek yogurt (gross), but I nearly flipped the other day when I saw PS Greek feta cheese pie. BLECH! It's worldwide now!"



This international rebuke was put into some perspective as replies to the crowdsourcing flowed in: PS lip balm, facial cr me, underarm deodorant, cat litter (!) and a myriad of other such non-edible items climaxed in an internet meme roadway sign advertising as such: "THEY ARE BACK. PUMPKIN SPICE BRAKE PADS."



More locally, this madness might have culminated in a claim by Lisa Marie Wade from the Rutland, Vt., area, who wrote: "I haven't seen them in person, but I received an email ad from Dollar General that included pumpkin spice odor control trash bags!"



But back in the sane world, Anastasia Gauthier of Shaftsbury, Vt., who confessed to "only liking pumpkin spice coffee creamer," added that everything else "grosses me out."

"I love real pumpkin things, but not artificially flavored pumpkin spice stuff like Pop Tarts, yogurt, Cheerios, chips, English muffins," Gauthier said.



And speaking perhaps for many who want to live and let live, Amanda Haar of Hoosick Falls, N.Y., who noted an aversion to pumpkin spice Pringles, added a final touch of her own spice.



"I drink my coffee light with milk, and no sugar," Haar said. "To me, the whole pumpkin spice thing is a bit like flavored coffees. Coffee has a flavor. Why are you trying to change or ruin it? That said, if you want pumpkin spice chips, buy pumpkin spice chips. They're out there."



Reach award-winning freelance journalist Telly Halkias at tchalkias@aol.com or on Twitter: @TellyHalkias




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