The Pumpkin Spice Must Flow #10

I’ve read that one way for addicts to avoid falling off the wagon is to stay away from the places they used to frequent as addicts.  Not to make light of that topic, but for me and pumpkin spice, that’s the grocery store.  How am I supposed to avoid the grocery store?  I can’t, I didn’t, and I did relapse into pumpkin spice madness again this season.  And what better way to celebrate my favorite month, anyway?  So here I go again, spiraling down again until I’m full of shame and have to start climbing back up that ladder in bleak February.  I’ve got a pumpkin spice monkey on my back and Little Debbie® is right, “Pumpkin season has begun.”

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Pillsbury Grands! Pumpkin Spice Rolls

Think of a cinnamon roll, then add the other three canonical pumpkin spices – nutmeg, clove, and ginger – to end up with a pumpkin spice roll.  Neat!  But wait, then think of adding over half a cup of strongly sugar icing that comes in a separate plastic “can” and tastes something like burnt coffee (Starbucks’ Pikes Place, which tastes that way even when made “right”) for just six rolls.  And then consider the disappointing canned, gummy quality of any roll that pops out of a tube like Dionysus from Zeus’ cardboard thigh (perhaps we didn’t cook them quite long enough though). You’d realize that the icing and roll are better together than apart, but that icing is still kind of pulling the whole thing down.

But did you think about how they transcend their low tube-birth and become seductive sweets despite those flaws?  I bet you didn’t, I know I didn’t at first.  But I also can’t stop thinking about their natural and artificial flavors (cinnamon being the only real spice listed), palm oil, and high fructose corn syrup, because we just can’t have nice things.  So I don’t think I’ll ever buy these again, but I also don’t think I want to share them with you.

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Tommyknocker Small Batch Pumpkin Harvest ale

You may remember how I’ve said in the past that every pumpkin spice beer thing always just tastes like beer.  Guess what?  Tastes like beer!  These pumpkin spice-tagged beers are always better than Budweiser or whatever, but they’re a full-on disappointment as a pumpkin spice experience.

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Zone Perfect Pumpkin Spice Bar

I saw some of these last year but held off because protein bars are generally either candy passing itself off as “healthy,” or barren sludge, plus I never found any available for single sale; I try not to buy a whole box of something taste untasted, because what if they’re awful and I hate them after one bite?  But I did anyway this time, and then the murders began horror began.

The flavor blooms strong right out of the gate, but immediately takes a strange turn to something like an alien or overcooked cinnamon, maybe made a bit smokier from stronger than normal nutmeg flavors?, which didn’t fade away or change.  Yet the first bar still sort of worked for me despite the cloying “overly saturated with icing” sense it gave me (my fiancee however liked it less and less the longer she was eating it and didn’t finish it).  About that icing: the bar is something like a brick of puffed rice that’s held together by a generous saturation of icing that’s both too smooth  and not sweet enough to be mistaken for any kind of cookie icing like you might find on a sugar cookie. Think a rice krispie treat but without a marshmallow taste and with thicker goo.

And just what is that goo made of?  Let’s just take a look at the ingredients list here and … oh the horror, when will I learn to not buy things without looking at the ingredients list?  I suppose that’s one of the hallmarks of relapsing, you get that great initial rush of “wheeee, here I go again!” without considering any of the consequences.  I went over the long ingredients list with a red pen like some scolding English teacher and marked anything I found there worth talking about.  I ended up with ten marked things, five of which were repeated inclusions of palm oil and fractionated palm oil (which has even higher levels of saturated fat than the regular stuff).  The other five items were:

  1. That’s not puffed rice, it’s “soy protein nuggets”, which sounds pretty appetizing I have to admit, right?
  2. That’s not icing, that’s “yogurt flavored coating” and / or “neutral bar binder” (I think that’s some sort of BDSM toy).  Again, pretty appetizing!
  3. This bar contains cayenne pepper, which is… man, just weird.
  4. This bar contains cardamom WHICH IS NOT A PUMPKIN SPICE PEOPLE.  Clove, when used sparingly, is alright for pumpkin spice, but doubling down on the flowery flavor is a terrible, terrible sin.

So these were both candy and gross – the worst features of both kinds of protein bars!  It was like eating a pumpkin-spiced margarine-soaked “soy protein nugget” treat or something, but with some extra rainforest destruction thrown in (thanks to the palm oil) to really bring out that smoky flavor.  Or maybe that’s the artificial flavor?  I didn’t note from that ingredients list if any other real spices were used, because why double check such trivia after the above?  I left the rest of these bars for the locusts in the break room at work, because I hate wasting food and because I clearly disrespect my coworkers.

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Little Debbie Pumpkin Delights

I don’t recall who it was, but a commenter on my articles last year kept recommending these and I can see why.  I didn’t get the chance to try them at the time because no one was selling them in my neck of the woods, but this season I found them and hey, they’re really almost worth it!  This is probably as close as I will ever come to endorsing something made by Little Debbie, shocking even me.

These soft cookies are actually pleasant eating instead of the usual shock-and-awe sugar bombardment of typical Little Debbie fare.  Free of that ever present and excessive Little Debbie “creme” filling, these ring a solid gingersnaps flavor bell, which is often where a lot of pumpkin spice near-misses end up at.  The pumpkin jam that fills in each cookie’s jack-o-lantern face is pumpkin spicy and brings a comparably subtle sweetness without Little Debbie’s usual “it goes to eleven” excess.  But behind that pumpkin jam-o-lantern face each cookie bears lurks the usual cheap scares of any Little Debbie product: partially hydrogenated oil, high fructose corn syrup, and artificial flavors (in addition to some “spices” and molasses).  Shame about all that. But if you’re of a mind to enjoy some trash, you could do much worse.

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Megara Justice Machine pondered how to uh justify coming out of retirement to write about pumpkin spice again: some trope about a shambling fright rising from the grave to terrorize y’all’s neighborhood?  Something heist-like about how he thought he’d gotten out for good only to be drawn right back in again?  A criminal returning to the scene of a crime, or a beloved pet to where they were recently sick?  Clearly he’s made the wrong choice, perhaps because he’s spent too much time recently playing City Of Heroes; the above screenshot selfie of his level-capped “King Pumpkin Spice”-named character (that’s a Mercs/Nature Mastermind AT for anyone who might care) certainly lends credence to that theory, but can’t erase the previous columns he’s written, on pumpkin spice (and other subjects), all of which can be found here on The Avocado using the search feature.  He’s not sure why you would want to do so however.