As we move into the season of falling leaves, cozy sweaters and the color orange, there’s one thing that is becoming more prevalent than ever - at least in America. It’s the ultimate fall staple, the flavor that everyone is obsessed about: pumpkin spice.
And you know the obsession is real when people start writing poems about Starbuck’s PSL and there’s pumpkin spice in everything like waffles, puppy chow, brussels sprouts and even vodka soda. At this point in the season, there are people who are still scoping out ways to make everything they eat pumpkin spice flavored. And then there are those who can’t handle seeing another sign about pumpkin spice flavored things.
Whatever end of the spectrum you’re on, take a little hiatus from America’s beloved fall flavor and learn about some of the other “pumpkin spices” around the world.
When summer dies down, instead of sulking about the colder weather that’s approaching, the Swedish have traditional crayfish parties (kräftskiva) consisting of singing, drinking and good company. The origin of these parties dates back to hundreds of years ago when crayfish were considered a delicacy that only the wealthy were able to afford.
Now, crayfish is enjoyed by everyone starting the first week of August, when crayfish season starts and when there’s still a little warmth lingering in the air. The crayfish themselves are cooked with a simple boil until tender and seasoned with salt and dill.
The deep orange color of these fruits begs to be placed as centerpieces for fall decoration, and the versatility and nutritional benefits of these autumn fruits make them so much more just a “pumpkin spice” of Korea. With their peak season in the fall, these sweet fruits are peeled and eaten raw and are also eaten in the forms of jam, shaved ice, and dried fruit snacks.
One ingredient that’s definitely not very common in everyday American cooking is the chestnut. In contrast, Japanese chefs make sure to put this ingredient center-stage. Especially during the fall when they’re in season, they’re not afraid to give everything a chestnut flair. Sound familiar to pumpkin spice?
Likewise, chestnuts are ubiquitous around Japan this time of year and are enjoyed in donuts, ice cream, Kit Kats, lattes and in a simple roasted form you can enjoy while walking the colorful streets of Japan.
Spain: Wild Mushrooms
Though concentrated in certain areas of the country, wild mushrooms are truly a fall staple in Spain. Ou de Reig mushrooms and Ceps (Porcini) mushrooms are just two out of more than a thousand varieties of wild mushrooms carpeting the Spanish woodlands.
To the Spanish, hunting these mushrooms is as much of an affair as eating them. Yes, mushroom hunting is real. There is also a wide array of annual mushroom conferences, competitions and festivals that are popular in the fall.
Most people know that chiles are a vital part of Mexican cuisine. While the ingredient seems to be present year-round, most chiles are in abundance during the fall.
In a particular dish called Chiles en Nogada, poblano chiles get stuffed with different meats, fruits and spices and coated in a walnut based sauce and pomegranate seeds, which are both harvested in the fall as well. This dish is especially popular during Mexico’s Independence Day as the red, green and white colors in harmony resemble those of the Mexican flag.
Southeast Asia: Mooncakes
Just like how we start looking forward to Halloween and Thanksgiving, the Chinese, Malaysians, Singaporeans and many others look toward the Mid-Autumn Festival. While this huge holiday celebrates the fall harvest and union of families, it’s also about the copious amounts of mooncakes eaten during this time.
Exactly how and why these mooncakes became so popular remains a mystery with the multiple theories that exist. These intricate pastries come in many variations, but the most original form is a sweet and smooth red bean filling that’s wrapped in a golden, eggy dough.