Today I enjoyed my first Pumpkin Spice latte of the fall season. It was as tasty as I remember, and I’m still nicely wired from its grande-ness of hot milk. The Starbucks on 50th and Lexington was featuring it as a flavour of the day, although I had the idea before I even entered the joint. After all, I do have a calendar.
Pumpkin Spice is a seasonal flavour for autumn, just as Gingerbread is for winter. But the big dirty secret is that your local Starbucks has these flavours in stock all year round. Strictly speaking, there is no such thing as a seasonal flavour, just a ‘featured’ flavour that happens to correspond to the calendar. This is but the newest touchpoint in the growing trend of seasonlessness.
Every roommate, co-worker, and former-classmate of mine knows that I am a fiend of those bright green Granny Smith apples. I love the bitterness and the sweetness and I love the crunch. Especially when they’re cold and crisp, straight from that lettuce drawer in the fridge. I try to eat one everyday, even when they’re out of season. But wait! Aren’t apples a seasonal fruit? Yes, or at least they used to be. These days the agro-industrial complex has made it possible to supply fruit to all regions, in all climates, all year round. Generally, that’s not a bad deal — I can get Grannies from Chile or South Africa, if Connecticut happens to be covered in snow, or only just budding. But is that a good thing? Don’t we need seasons?
Several years ago, I remarked that I would never want to live in Florida or some other tropical place that doesn’t have ‘real seasons’. My then-teammate Steve jumped in and offered a truism: “I need seasons to gauge the passing of my life”. And it’s true — seasons help us block out our lives and set goals, make efforts and initiatives and change our activities according to the weather. Weeks and months are too small; years are too long; and quarters make us feel like accountants. Seasons, on the other hand, are a very human and natural way of measuring time. Too bad we don’t have them anymore.
As I write this, the temperature on this October afternoon reached 28°C (~82°F). Wait, what season is it? And it’s been like this for weeks. I haven’t yet worn a jacket during the day, or even at night. The weather has become bizarre and seasonless. New York now acts more like London where it goes from blistering hot to dank and freezing in what seems like a few hours.
Even supermarkets don’t operate on seasons. Whereas the produce aisles should be stocked with seasonal foods, we get the same crap year round. If we’re lucky, the apples will taste slightly better in fall, because that’s the way it should be, but chances are we’re buying the same industrialised nonsense that we buy in April. Instead of seasons, supermarkets (as well as pharmacies and department stores) operate on holidays. Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, President’s Day, Mother’s day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, and maybe Yom Kippor. And we’re back to where we’ve started.
The trend of seasonlessness even continues into the world of sports! When I was young, each season brought with it the associations of those corresponding sports. Fall meant pickup football games in the park and the homecoming game from the high school. Winter meant basketball and coming in from the cold to get all hot-and-sweaty for a while in the gym. And most of all, spring meant baseball. To this day, I associate the smells of blossoms and new grass with baseball, and in some parts of Maplewood and other suburbs, the air actually has a faint hint of freshly poured-and-raked baseball dirt. These days, the pre-seasons start earlier every year and the post-seasons run longer. There are foreign leagues on satellite tv and exhibition matches in the opposite hemisphere. Were it not for the ESPN outdoor ads asking “is it Monday yet?” I’d have no idea that we hadn’t been in the NFL regular season for 3 months already.
Yes, some of this is due to the fact that I’m no longer in school, and no longer playing organised sports, but it’s another aspect of the trend. This is a rant, but truly I’m not that mad — simply puzzled. What happened to seasons? When did it become a negative thing to embrace the natural cycles of the Earth and all that comes with it? Have the weather patterns changed forever, or is this just another odd month? Does Starbucks have any other hidden flavours they aren’t telling us about? Is it Monday yet? Is it Spring yet?
To all who read this, make sure you do your part. Go outside and enjoy the fall weather. Wear brown. Eat an apple. Drink a Pumpkin Spice late.