Dram, Falernum, and the Blind: Rethink Pumpkin Spice and Rethink Blindness

What do pumpkin spice and blind people have in common? They are widely misunderstood, probably not what you think they are, and are made of many ingredients that might vary from one experience to another. More importantly, they both come out in full force in October, the former in celebration of the onset of fall and the latter for Meet the Blind Month.

Before I get too carried away with my favorite activity, food learning, this whole blog post is just to say that you’re invited to Meet the Blind on Friday, October 16 from 5-7 PM PST when Bay Area Blind Mom Lisamaria Martinez and I host a spicy Meet the Blind Month virtual Happy Hour on behalf of the San Francisco chapter of the National Federation of the Blind to answer all your burning questions about what it’s really like to be blind and tell our stories. You’ll need to email lm@bayareablindmom for the Zoom deets.

And it wouldn’t be a happy hour without libations, so in the spirit of welcoming fall, we wanted to also demystify our misunderstood friend pumpkin spice, which, to be clear, contains no pumpkin. It’s a warm and soothing blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, and clove. Though it tastes delicious with pumpkin, we’re deconstructing and rethinking our friend pumpkin spice in all its reconfigured components in hopes you’ll reconsider the way you think about it, just like we invite you to reconsider what it really means to be a blind person.

Lisamaria took the low hanging fruits of cinnamon and nutmeg as the more familiar and approachable component spices, and delegated ginger, allspice, and clove to me, because I’m the food nerd, and I love ginger way more than she does, anyway.

So consider dram and falernum and/or one of these other deconstructed pumpkin spice cocktail options, pour, shake, or stir something up for yourself, and join the spicy Meet the Blind Month party. Here’s what I learned about where pumpkin spice breaks down and intersects with cocktail culture:

Serious Eats

When it comes to completely geeking out over food in a way that is completely approachable, the folks at Serious Eats are the best, and I was delighted to find search results for 2 of my 3 spices that led me to their website. It was the search for allspice cocktails that led me to my first new culinary term of the evening, dram., and clove that led me to the second,falernum. I’m also a word nerd, so these two new words are the highlight of this entire exercise for me. Bonus: if I also wasn’t so wordy, I could have just written about falernum, since it contains all three— ginger, allspice, and clove.

Just like you might encounter a blind person just about anywhere, these three spices blend in to drinks of all kinds—tropical tiki drinks, cold and refreshing citrus sparklers, dark spicy fall beverages, and hot ciders and toddies to warm your winter bones. From sweet and fruity to spicy and savory, and covering the spectrum of spirits, there’s an element of pumpkin spice here that just about everyone can get on board with.And just like blind people are all pretty different, except that common spice of blindness.

Ginger:

The Serious Eats team takes eating, well, seriously. They are dedicated and methodic in their kitchen science and you can rely on their flavor profile recommendations.

11 Ginger Drinks to Make at Home | Serious Eats

Allspice:

Now you can finally know what dram is and nerd out with your new culinary knowledge.

5 Cocktails to Make With Allspice Dram | Serious Eats

Clove:

And here is falernum explained. Bask in the foodie goodness of this obscure syrup, and then go look for some online, unless you really enjoy kitchen therapy like me. And who doesn’t want to drink a cocktail called a Black Hole at least once? Well, who keeps activated charcoal around, especially in their kitchen? OK, maybe not, but it still sounds good to me.

Spicy clove syrup takes your cocktails to a whole new level | Quench Magazine

Love it or hate it, pumpkin spice will never be quite the same once you get to know it in a different context, and we think you’ll agree that once you really get to know a blind person, you’ll never quite think about them the same way, either.

Let’s get spicy!

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