photo: The Brad Slager Archives

As the arrival of the infamous fall flavoring is here WaPo manages to find reasons why it is something to be shamed.

If you have frequented social media at all in the past week or so you have probably been alerted to the arrival of products on the market infused with the seasonal flavor matrix known as “Pumpkin Spice”. This becomes one of those pedantic arguments that flare up in threads, with ardent supporters of the flavoring battling people with little substance who are unreasonably angered by a new product that is not a compulsory purchase.

Personally, I see the new selections of pumpkin-flavored beers sprouting up in coolers this time of year, and I steer clear. Having sampled this style in the past I have never once felt gratitude for doing so, nor been inspired to open a second bottle. But when I now see them I do fly off in an enraged tirade of opposition; I simply choose a different label to imbibe.

But now, as if the imbalanced social conflict over flavored coffee potions is not infantile enough, the Washington Post has arrived to further cast this herbal conflict into a deepening rift. It turns out, as the paper is reading history, that your Halloween-themed latte is the product of intolerance and you are tacitly supporting genocide.

But underneath those fuzzy-sweater vibes, the spices in “the PSL” have a dark history. Particularly nutmeg. It’s a story of war, genocide and slavery.

Yes, we are now entering the realm where soccer moms and frenzied secretaries who are ordering these drinks from Starbucks can be declared hate-filled proponents of ethnic-cleansing or some such. Beginning circa the 1400s, in what is modern-day Indonesia, a series of islands produced nutmeg that fed the growing global spice trade. Then the Europeans showed up and screwed up the process. The Portuguese came and muscled in for about a century, then others wanted in on the action in a fashion not unlike contemporary drug lords.

The Dutch showed up in 1599, and everything got gruesome soon afterward. They seized the islands, built a fort and informed the Bandanese they were no longer allowed to trade with anyone else, according to historian Vincent C. Loth.

This led to a number of violent skirmishes between the Dutch and the Bandanese, Loth wrote. Then in 1621, Dutch Governor-General Jan Pieterszoon Coen led 2,000 troops on an assault on the Bandanese. Their leaders were beheaded, and the wealthy were enslaved and sent overseas. The remaining inhabitants fled into the mountains, where, over the following months, nearly all met one of three fates: They were murdered in Dutch attacks, starved to death, or jumped off cliffs in despair.

In the interest of full disclosure, this writer is of Dutch lineage. (All complaints of inherent hatred and crass appropriation should be sent to the editors.) 

I believe now it is evident for all to see that anyone who dares purchase these seasonal caffeine delivery systems, or bastardized variations of zymurgy formulas, is actually supporting the very violent acts that we are trying to curtail. Look at the closing factoid provided by The Post.

In a bid to end a skirmish with English claimants to the nutmeg harvest the Dutch turned over another island as compensation. The English then redubbed New Amsterdam as Manhattan, and now nearly 250 Starbucks are located therein. So all of those pumpkin potables that are purchased are funneling money directly in support of that murderous trade.

You should be properly shamed for your genocidal frappes, as WaPo has positioned things.


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