Thanksgiving Flavors

Anyone suffering pumpkin fatigue yet? For that matter, how are you feeling about sweet potato, cinnamon, apple, and caramel?

We are definitely in a season when we start to narrow in on flavors that are traditional to fall, but it’s at the risk of over-saturation. It’s kind of the way I feel about leftovers. Eating the same meal again is fine, but it doesn’t take long before I’m ready to move onto something new.

It’s not even that we eat these flavors a lot. No, it’s more like we’re exposed to these flavors, over and over and over again. A few years ago there was a move to brand more flavors “fall,” so the industry moved ginger and cranberry to the forefront and created new products with those ingredients. Now you can, if you  are so inclined, get a sweet potato cinnamon ginger caramel pecan pie. Or apple cider cranberry black walnut bread. The combinations are innumerable. And, quite likely, unnecessary.

Most people are quite happy with apple pie. Add a drizzle of caramel? OK…but plain ol’ vanilla ice cream is still going to be the topping of choice. We are in serious danger of cramming too many things into our holiday foods and, as a result, missing the true, pure flavor of a single hero ingredient.

We dress things up, too, to the point they may be unrecognizable. With all due respect to Caffé Umbria in Chicago, their seasonal specials include a Chestnut Latte, made with Clement Faugier Chestnut Spread and Monin Praline syrup; a Caffé al Pepe with a housemade spice blend of cinnamon, pepper and nutmeg; and, a Turmeric Ginger Chai made with coconut milk. I’m sure they are each delicious in their own way, but they don’t scream tradition (at least not yet).

It’s an American trait—we do it with our social lives this time of year, too. We add so many things to the calendar, knowing we will beg off of some and just delete some others, because holiday cheer only holds up so long. We dress things up, at least in our heads, making them more lofty than they need to be. It’s time to call our own bluff.

We need to schedule our down time and make sure we create plenty of occasions to curl up with a blanket and a mug of hot chocolate and a holiday movie. It’s time to think about including rest in our menu, and rethinking flavor to make it simple. In other words, let the holiday’s commence…but maybe with a little less pumpkin.

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