Once we’re finished with today’s Halloween fun—after we’ve eaten our fill of mini Twix bars and Kit Kats, and scraped the final flakes of fake blood off our faces—it’s time to open the floodgates on everything Christmas and the stories of Grinches, Scrooges, and the humbugs with tiny, coal-black hearts who frown cartoonishly on cheery holiday festivities.
But I bet you didn’t know there’s a grinch who brings her own black cloud of doom to some of the most beloved traditions of Thanksgiving and autumn baking—yeah, though as you might have guessed, it’s me. Because I don’t like pumpkin pie.
Mostly it’s the texture—thick and creepily smooth, like a phlegmatic flan—but it’s also the bland sweetness of the squash. Yes, despite my well-publicized love of all things orange, none of the squash family really does it for me. Not butternut, not acorn, and not even Pumpkin shortbread?… OK, maybe I’ll consider that one.
But cloves, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, star anise, vanilla beans—I say yes to all those things. They’re the haunting flavors of gingerbread, of mulled cider, of cranberry chutney. When combined, they’re the olfactory equivalent of a cable-knit sweater, and yet I balk when the fleshy, slick pabulum of puréed pumpkin comes into the picture.
Only one thing could make my pumpkin-hating grinchy heart grow three sizes: Maine Root Pumpkin Pie Soda. And you know why I love it? Because it doesn’t taste like pumpkin.
It just tastes like fall. Though it’s a (naturally) sugary soda, there’s a savory element that hangs around the forefront, threatening to overtake the mix and let its brooding, spicy flavors run wild. Nutmeg, cloves, and allspice hijack what looks like a plain orange drink with their earthy perfume—your brain thinks Sunkist, but your tongue says “wait… is that chai?” By taking that baby-food squash flesh out of the equation, it’s easier to note the dark and dashing spice notes that telegraph the season so well. It’s enough to make a good grinch go bad.
Granted, this shouldn’t be this big of a revelation. Maine Root’s ginger beer and root beer have been at the top of my very tiny “sodas I drink” list for the past few years, so there’s a precedent and a predisposition to pulling this particular pumpkin-branded potion off the shelf.
I just viewed it as more of a $5.99 experiment. I didn’t expect to like it. What’s next? Making pumpkin cannoli? Executing the perfect pumpkin soufflé? Don’t hold your breath. But you might get a pumpkin curry or two out of the deal after this.
(One more Grinchy thought for the day: does anyone else think that It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown is one of the most depressing stories? Poor Linus! Give me the Charlie Brown Christmas Special and its Vince Guaraldi soundtrack any day.)