Pumpkin spice latte is ?hot??

If anyone ever comes up to me and says that Ameri?cans are basically a giant herd of stupid sheep who clumsily but enthusiastically move as one mass from one craze to the next, I?d smack their face, stomp on their toe and say, ?OK, yeah, you?re right.?

I?m talking about the pumpkin spice latte, the annual autumnal tradition that combines caffeine, the flavor of pumpkin pie, the anticipation of Black Friday and the mass hysteria of the late 1990s Beanie Baby craze.

Perhaps you haven?t heard of the pumpkin spice latte.

Perhaps you should come out from under your rock.

Starbucks?you know, that small coffee chain you?ll occasionally pass on the way to your favorite locally owned coffeehouse?started the pumpkin spice latte about 10 years ago as a seasonal promotion.

But over time, it has grown to be one of the most anticipated events of the year, surpassing both Christmas morning and the new iPhone introduction and coming in a narrow second to the American season premiere of ?Downton Abbey.?

The availability of the pumpkin spice latte each September marks the unofficial beginning of autumn, a beautiful time of year when we wait in 80-degree weather for seven weeks, enjoy one brisk week of beautiful colors and then launch right into a long gray winter.

Atmospheric cynicism aside, the launch of Starbucks? pumpkin spice latte is a big deal. I even found a Huffington Post article from late August that said if you gave the secret code ?PSL10? to your barista, she?d make a pumpkin spice latte for you early.

Of course, that news won?t do you a whole lot of good now.

You can, however, find the pumpkin spice latte at a variety of other places. Walking into a McDonald?s a few weeks ago, I was surprised to see a sign for the ?limited time only? latte on their McCafe menu. And I?ve seen this drink popping up everywhere else ever since.

The Flying J travel center now has pumpkin spice flavored coffee, and 7-Eleven has its own version of the latte. Dunkin Donuts may trump them all, with not only a pumpkin spice latte, but a white chocolate pumpkin latte, iced pumpkin coffee and pumpkin pie donuts.

If you have a pumpkin allergy, don?t go to Dunkin Donuts.

You can also make your own pumpkin spice latte. A quick Internet search brings up a zillion (I counted) results of ?homemade? or ?DIY? variations on the latte. There?s even a recipe for a slow cooker pumpkin spice latte.

If we?ve learned anything from this Mennonite-filled community, it?s that everything is better in a crockpot.

But the pumpkin spice latte isn?t all fun and games. Earlier this month mass hysteria erupted (slight exaggeration) when the Mail Online revealed that there is ZERO (that?s their capitalization, not mine) actual pumpkin in the pumpkin spice latte.

The name isn?t deceitful, since it only indicates the drink contains spices, and not actual pumpkin. The flavor actually comes from the ingredients you?d use in pumpkin pie: cinnamon, nutmeg and clove with pumpkin spice sprinkled on the whipped cream. And pumpkin-flavored syrup.

I doubt that news will do much to dampen the spirit of those nutmegs who flock in to get this drink. You won?t catch me among them, however. No, I?m not one to give in to such cultural crazes. Now if you?ll excuse me, my crockpot is done heating.