Unpopular as it may be to say, I am quite fond of the influence our American friends have had on British culture. I am, as they might say, totally on-board with 24/7 supermarkets, drive-through burger joints (although spelling it "thru" is still anathema to me), blockbuster films, the joys of BBQ, Hollywood style and their unique strands of literature and music. That being said, sometimes it does go a little too far.
The quintessential example of my love/occasional hate relationship with American imports occurs at this time of year and has done so for the last few years. I refer to the inevitable arrival of the drink of choice for all Ugg-wearering, gilet aficionados everywhere.
As a tired meme is sure to have once said: Brace yourselves; the pumpkin spice latté is coming. #PSL as the more insufferable folks on Twitter seem duty bound to say.
Before I start being a stuffy old conservative for the pre-pumpkin spice latté days it is necessary to issue a quick disclaimer; I hate pumpkin and all pumpkin flavoured things. I cannot stand the taste or texture of the stuff and the times in which I have been forced by politeness to choke down a plate of pumpkin soup while maintaining a fixed satisfied expression constantly haunt me.
To give those who know me personally a better idea, I'd shovel down punnet after punnet of mushrooms and ask for seconds before contemplating a single morsel of pumpkin. That is the strength of my feeling on the subject.
However, being the committed capitalist that I am, I used to be perfectly fine with the PSL (another shortening I detest but I flatly refuse to keep typing the full name of this loathsome drink). I even tried it once or twice - in the same spirit that I consistently re-try a mushroom-loaded dish every once in a while to make sure I don't like them - but so far remain convinced that it will never be to my taste. There are friends of mine who like it and I'm happy for them to have it and enjoy it. I'll even go so far as to buy one for them if we're out for coffee and it's my round. The whole PSL phenomenon was, until recently, fine by me.
It was only fine by me, I should add, when it was reserved to one drink in one multi-national corporation masquerading as your local coffee shop; but it is most certainly not like that any more. The pumpkin spice phenomenon is - like posh people 'chundering' - everywhere. The candles and room sprays are, perhaps, only deserving of a light thrashing but when this insipid fruit creeps into M&Ms, yoghurts, pastries, milkshakes, beer, cereal, hummus (a case of multiple offences if there ever was one) and even the humble can of Pringles then I am afraid that this judge of society will have no compunction at all in reaching for the black cap.
I fully understand that September is peak-pumpkin season in the United States but at least that feels culturally relevant. Pumpkins have been part of the Autumnal and culinary landscape and history of the United States since its inception. If we imagine the Thanksgiving scene, or Halloween - the quintessential American holiday - the vista is incomplete without one of the revolting, fleshy orange entitles lurking around somewhere. They, like the inexplicable popularity of baseball, are an American problem, which ought to have stayed in the former colonies.
Perhaps a distinction ought to be drawn between 'pumpkin spice' things and actual pumpkins. Both are, of course, absolutely vile but at least actual, grown, physical pumpkin is of some nutritional value - as if such a thing were important in British, or even Anglosphere, dietary habits.
Pumpkin spice flavouring doesn't even have this going for it. According to Starbucks own website, a grande PSL contains 50grams of sugar (almost 3 tablespoons in old money), so it might be an idea to take a skinny, rather than a regular, muffin with it in future - don't worry, Instagram can't tell the difference.
At this point I feel I ought to point out that, for what it's worth, reports suggest that this time around there will be some actual pumpkin in the PSL, which is progress, of a kind.
However, I will remind you that this epidemic is not limited to Starbucks or their products; those I can quite easily avoid. My problem is with the proliferation of everything pumpkin and its invasion of my favourite time of year. I love autumn; I adore the cool breezes, choosing which jazzy scarf to wear, velvety hot chocolates and the crunch of leaves under foot and I fail to see how it is improved by the - incredibly recent - addition of a smell reminiscent of out-of-date potpourri and a taste reminiscent of the same stuff albeit after it is mashed and mixed into wallpaper paste.
I remember a time when we just enjoyed autumn and didn't allow it to be dominated by these disgusting orange behemoths. Can't we just quit them and go back to it just being a disturbingly popular drink destined to be spilled on a pair of Jack Wills joggers while consoling oneself after a fight with ones boyfriend?
Hanna, Henrietta and Ashley can still have their drink of choice to compliment their iPhone/yoga pants/North Face jacket uniform but we will consign the rest of this tasteless and smelly abomination to history along with blancmanges and prawn cocktails. Surely this would be far better state of affairs?
You'll pardon me for saying so, but my request really is that.... basic.