Fall in the U.S.: Everything Turns to Pumpkin
Pumpkin spiced lattes arrived in shops here a few weeks ago. Starbucks has one, Dunkin’ Donuts has one, Cosi, Caribou Coffee and Panera Bread have one, all the major coffee shops.
Both Dunkin Donuts and Einstein Bros have pumpkin bagels and cream cheese. The Costco bakery is churning out pumpkin pies. I guess it must be Fall.
In the U.K., Autumn just sort of arrives, unannounced. There’s no dramatic change in the weather, no widespread uptake of seasonal produce, it’s really just the end of daylight saving time that marks the shift. Pumpkins appear as jack-o-lanterns for Halloween, but traditionally it’s been a rather downplayed event.
Living in the U.S. has meant accepting some very early signs that the season is changing. Halloween is one of them. Costumes and sweets, or “candy” as they’re called here, began appearing on store shelves long before the Labour Day weekend at the start of September, which traditionally marks the end of summer in the U.S.. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye. Swimming pools closed their doors, people packed up summer furniture, changed their wardrobes. It was like someone just came along and pulled the plug.
When I was younger I’d play tennis with my father on the outdoor courts near our house, long after the final days of summer. We’d play in the evenings for as long as we could until the light finally gave in and the clocks changed. It was a very organic journey through the year, with very little hint of consumer or seasonal trends. There was a tendency to cling to summer, to begrudge the onset of winter, because by the time it was over we were still waiting for it to arrive. Nobody told me it had passed, I just knew.
It appears that Labour Day weekend in the U.S. is not a bad approximation for the end of summer, it’s just a little sudden and ordained. A few weeks after the holiday the cold, dark mornings began to appear, and shoes and socks came out. The warm nights were gone, orange and yellow started to paint over the green hues of summer. Maybe the pumpkin products came just in time, forecasting the change with the sort of precision only years of statistics can achieve. Most of these products taste nothing like pumpkin, rather a mix of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg; but they do a nice job of evoking the shift in rhythms and readying us for the onset of cold dark nights.
We’ve had a few more warm days since the pumpkins first showed up but it’s slowly happening, Autumn is encroaching. Some stores are even into Christmas.