Fear Not the Pumpkin Spice

It's not as bad as you think.



It’s almost fall!

Not really, but every retailer in the country is gearing up for season. And you know what that means in the food world, right?

Pumpkin spice.

Yep, it’s on its way, like the massive herd of wildebeest lumbering en masse across the Serengeti on their annual trek even as you read this. I was sent a few packages of Thomas’ English muffins version, plus a few of their pumpkin spice bagels. Also included were salted caramel bagels and English muffins — another new and limited run you’ll see in stores shortly.

My first reaction upon hearing about them? Blecch. Must pumpkin spice invade everything we eat in the fall? And much as I adore salted caramel, I really couldn’t imagine how it would translate into what’s basically bread.

Do the flavors of the (past two or three) years, I thought, have to spread so widely throughout the food chain? You know pumpkin pie is out there screaming, “Why can’t you just love me for myself? Why, why, WHY?”

But I really should have stopped my musings about the existential nature of dessert, because the reaction from my co-workers was surprising.

Style copy editor G.W. Poindexter, as he was eating half of an un-toasted, unadorned salted caramel English muffin, said, “It’s delicious — it tastes like ice cream. Usually I think of an English muffin as a vehicle for orange marmalade and butter. That would be like putting maple syrup on fried chicken.”

“It wasn’t sweet,” editor in chief Jason Roop said of the salted caramel muffin he tried. “It was not bad. Cinnamon would definitely go well with it. And it definitely smells good.”

Ed Harrington, creative director, was surprised by the subtlety of the pumpkin spice flavor, too. He tried the English muffin version and noticed that the flavoring was concentrated in little nuggets scattered throughout the nooks and crannies. “It’s very mild,” he said. “It’s very pleasant.” And that’s high praise indeed from Harrington.

“Ate part of a bagel and thought it was delicious!!!” senior account executive Toni McCracken wrote in an email. “And I am a bagel expert!” She didn’t specify which bagel and I can’t ask her because she’s on vacation, but I’m guessing it was the pumpkin spice bagel. Those went quickly in the office kitchen — perhaps because they were labeled while the salted caramel variety came in plain plastic bags.

In fact, most of the English muffins and bagels disappeared — disproportionately to our staff size, which leads me to believe some people had more than one. However, an email I sent out asking for reactions went largely unanswered. Interpret that as you will.

In sum, if you think raisins are yesterday’s losers and fall means incessant Proustian moments that render real pumpkin pie superfluous, if the marriage of salt and caramel seems to you to be a genius combination — which it is — that makes everything it touches better, if you’re looking for a breakfast treat that doesn’t actually take you on the wild side but kind of makes you think it might, you may be in luck. Thomas’ limited editions go on sale Sept. 12.

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