Saturday, October 1, 2016

#psl So-called Pumpkin Spice Latte - Butternut Eugenol Latte?

I am not one of those who goes hog wild over pumpkin spice latte - or PSL as the kewl kids call it. No, I reserve my adoration for the "real" thing - pumpkin pie.

Except that pumpkin pie is misnamed, since canned pumpkin pie mixes usually contain some other type of winter squash, according to Food and Wine's Emma Crist.

Pumpkin puree: You know, the canned orange stuff that’s lining the supermarket walls right now? The stuff you use to make all your favorite fall desserts that’s labeled “100% pumpkin”?! Yes, well, it’s actually made from 100% not pumpkin. The mix is made from a variety of winter squash (think butternut, Golden Delicious, Hubbard, and more). Libby’s, the brand that produces about 85% of the country’s canned “pumpkin” filling, has actually developed a certain variety of squash that they grow, package, and distribute to supermarkets across the country–all the while fooling innocent, trusting consumers into believing they’re eating a pumpkin.

By George Chernilevsky - Own work, Public Domain,

In a way, that doesn't matter, since the secret to pumpkin pie isn't the pumpkin or squash or whatever, but the spices. Here's what the Satan worshippers at the Old Farmer's Almanac say should be in pumpkin spice:

⅓ cup ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon ground nutmeg or mace
1-½ teaspoons ground cloves
1-½ teaspoons ground allspice

So that's what you enjoy when you eat that pumpkin pie - I mean spice pie - and that's what you enjoy when you go to Starbucks and get that Squash Spice Latte (not to be confused with Secure Sockets Layer).

Although that's not true either:

As food scientist Kantha Shelke explains, flavor companies have come up with a simplified recipe that includes just a few of the chemicals that occur naturally in pumpkin and cinnamon and cloves and nutmeg. A small selection of those flavor compounds is enough to make our brain think, "Ah, pumpkin pie!"

Instead of actual nutmeg, for instance, they use a compound called sabinene. Instead of cloves, they use eugenol.

According to Shelke, this simplified recipe actually does a better job of capturing the essence of pumpkin pie flavor than you'd probably achieve with the natural spices from your cupboard. What you'd get, in that case, would resemble India-style spiced tea, or chai.

So pumpkin pie doesn't have pumpkin, and pumpkin spice doesn't have the spices you'd expect. So I guess your pumpkin spice latte is really a butternut eugenol latte.

At least the latte has real milk, doesn't it?
Well, that's a semantic issue.

Vani Hari, a blogger who writes as the Food Babe, depicted Starbucks lattes as full of “Monsanto Milk” in an article “Wake Up and Smell the Chemicals.” (Hari’s views have been widely debunked as wildly unscientific and sometimes nonsensical.)

And since I didn't entitle this post "Butternut Eugenol Monsanto Milk," you know how I feel about the Food Babe.

By the way, before you freak out about eugenol, it's about as dangerous as dihydrogen monoxide.
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