#553: A Pumpkin Spice Update and the Failure of Communism

November 9th, 2015

It was a clear plastic knife, the type built for picnics where they really care.

I picked up the little knife, hefted it as much as one can with a sliver of molded plastic too light even to get a recycling number printed on it and cut off a slice of vanilla bean gourmet fancy-pantsy doughnut.


Now a slice of a cinnamonny looking ‘nut.


Now a risk, a gamble. A weird, sort of orangey thing with these odd teardrop seeds on top.

I pushed the knife into the doughnut until it gave, springy cake bits popping around each side of the dull petroleum blade. I popped a piece into my mouth.

“Damn it,” I said out loud to an empty break room.

Back in early September, if you recall, on a sweat-hot day where I caught a procession of workers loading up a temporary Halloween shop in an abandoned storefront, I issued a proclamation: Autumn can kiss my seasonally spiced ass.

I spurned autumn, spurned henleys and boots, crunchy leaves and scarves. I spurned breezes, hats, anything described as “crisp” and I absolutely spurned anything pumpkin spiced until dessert of November 26, when I would have a slice or eight of post-Thanksgiving pumpkin pie.

In my words in September:

“Screw your pumpkin ale, your pumpkin-spiced lattes, your pumpkin-flavored artisanal bottled water that pledges to give one cent of each bottle’s proceeds to a charity distributing pumpkin milk and pumpkin-scented scarves to single mothers in our nation’s pumpkin-deprived inner cities.

“While I do realize my refusal will not stop the world from turning, the grass from browning or the bars from serving craft beers designed to taste like a big mug of hops and pie, I don’t have to play fall’s sick game.”

Or to quote Maria at work on Saturday:

“Didn’t you see the seeds on top of it?”

Yes, that last doughnut bite with the orange color and teardrop seeds was pumpkin spiced. And this is why communism fails.

Because it’s the 21st century, I’ve recently taken on a second job (or third, depending on how you count freelancing). My coworkers at the new job are lovely, wonderful, charming people whom, I discovered on Saturday, are doughnut communists.

What this means is that when we put in our doughnut orders, we divvy up little bits and pieces of the circlecakes so everyone gets to try a bit of each.

While a purely capitalist system would have gotten me a vanilla bean doughnut and a libertarian system would have gotten me no doughnuts (Jill’s tougher than I am and could easily take my doughnut), this Marxist pastry regime, this toroid Trotskyism ensured a mouth full of gourd and nutmeg, an end to No Pumpkin Spice 2015.

After I finished swallowing (and had a few more pieces because it was delicious and why not at that point), I started wondering if resistance is in fact futile to this holiday-infused culture shoved upon us.

Halloween marketing starts in August. Christmas in October. Even relatively non-branded Thanksgiving has its weird dessert tradition pushed forward in time to a week before the first crinkly leaf hits the sidewalk.

There are worse things in the world than unexpected mouthfuls of pie, of course. But holidays and seasons and traditions have a veneer of authenticity behind them, like they’re genuine markings of the calendar or the revolution of the earth around the sun or the yearly honorings of culture or God.

Then I realize there’s an army of weedy little brand strategists behind our traditions, convincing us beer and coffee spiced like pie is a thing we just do now.

Green bean casserole was created in 1955 by Campbell Soup’s marketing department to sell more cream of mushroom soup.

That awful jellied cranberry sauce was created in 1917 when a woman named Elizabeth Lee wanted to get rid of a bunch of bruised cranberries she couldn’t sell. She later cofounded Ocean Spray.

And now everything starting in September tastes like Thanksgiving pie. Because we’re told it should.

This might seem an odd, preachy ending to a story that included the phrase “toroid Trotskyism,” but I’ve had to defend No Pumpkin Spice 2015 a lot more than I expected.

It’s not only my early onset curmudgeonliness. It’s not only that I think pumpkin spiced Pringles, vodka, yogurt and the more than 100 other real pumpkin spiced products on the market today are silly.

It’s that I’m tired of a holiday that brings me joy and love and family used as a marketing lever. I’m tired of being sold at. I’m tired of having to holiday when brand strategists command.

This year’s challenge is done, ended in a bite of admittedly delicious commie doughnut.

Here’s to No Pumpkin Spice 2016.

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