Pumpkin Spice Everything

We’re still a few days out from fall, but late summer brings with it the promise of the coming harvest season. The days ever so slightly cooler, the nights come ever so slightly earlier, and we see a smorgasbord of pumpkin-flavored treats. The flagship of this fall flavor fleet is the pumpkin spice latte, that most perfect blend of espresso, steamed milk, and pumpkin pie spices that brings in the season with much pomp and circumstance.

Starbucks continues to have the best PSL (the full name is a lot to keep typing out) on the market. Maybe I’m just biased because the barista working at the Starbucks I went to this evening was on top of their game and made what may be the best PSL I’ve ever had, but I find Starbucks’s concoction to be the most balanced between the sweet snap of the espresso, the creaminess of the milk, and the bouquet of warming spices that is the pumpkin magic. Sheetz has a decent PSL even if they opt to call their drink a pumpkinĀ pie latte. I find it a bit too heavy on the coffee, which results in the spices being rolled right over; yes, I know it’s a flavored syrup and not the actual spices, but this actually pronounces the overpowering burn of the coffee in that a syrup should blend more efficiently. McDonald’s is good if you demand creamy goodness, as they use the sweetest syrup and go real heavy on the milk, but I still prefer the perfect balance of Starbucks.

Of course, both Dunkin’ and Panera Bread have their own entries in the PSL game. I haven’t tried those, as they did not come to my location last year and I haven’t checked those businesses this year. But my favorite fall treat is not actually the PSL. And it’s not pumpkin ales, though I love those as well, with New Belgium Pumpkick being my favorite. No, my favorite pumpkin munchy has got to be Krispy Kreme’s Pumpkin Spice cake donut. It’s near-perfect in that it balances spicy and sweet on a knife’s edge, and goes beautifully with a cup of coffee. The first time I dunk a day-old pumpkin spice donut into a fresh cup of black coffee is probably the moment that fall starts for me every year.

My wife also makes a fine pumpkin soup, which I usually have for lunch more than once as she cooks a hearty batch. And I’ve been tossing around an idea for a pumpkin spice pizza for a few years; I’m thinking a pumpkin-spiced dough topped with a seasoned pumpkin puree with cheddar cheese and crumbled country sausage. If only somebody with more pizza-making skill than I could take on this project, I’d happily test it out.

What’s your favorite pumpkin treat? If you don’t like pumpkin–then what’s wrong with you?

Hunting Season

For a few years, my little brother and I went hunting at least a couple of times each season. We hunted squirrel, with only once or twice going out with any intention of getting deer. We enjoyed it, even if our hunts were not fruitful. Then, one year my wife and I got a bearded dragon from Pet Smart. We did not know that the little guy was sick when we purchased him, thanks in large part to the negligence of said business, and he died after just a week. It was a horrible experience; he had a bone disorder that caused him great pain, and we watched him die over several agonizing hours. After that experience, I was convinced I couldn’t watch an animal die, at least for some time, so I took a break from hunting. After all, watching an animal die is a possibility when hunting.

But I’ve healed from that ordeal and I’m ready to get back to it. I’ve missed going out into the crisp autumn air at the break of day, the comforting weight of my boots on my feet, the slow crunch of dead leaves underneath as we crept through the woods, hoping not to startle potential game. It was my one chance at true adventure, given that my job has me firmly planted at a desk indoors–which is fine, but it’s nice to have a change of pace.

My decision to revisit this hobby came as I started writing a new book. It’s about a hunter who has to confront his own painful past as he tracks down a dangerous bear that seems to be as unnatural as a ghost. Writing this has got me thinking fondly of my memories with my little brother and, on a couple of occasions, my mother, who accompanied us as an observer.

So come this autumn, I will probably find myself out in the woods once more, shotgun in hand, hoping to bring home a harvest to share with my family.