My parents fittingly chose my middle name, Autumn, as fall is my favorite season. I love when the weather cools down, and I can slip on a sweater so baggy that it nearly envelops me, feel the brisk breeze on my face and hear the leaves quietly rustle around me.
My favorite part of fall, however, are the flavors that gloriously take center stage for a precious few months — the pumpkin, the apple, the plethora of cinnamon, nutmeg and spices galore — nestled into a variety of baked goods. I have a special place in my heart for pumpkin bread in particular. This seasonal treat, in all of its spiced goodness, has been a loyal childhood friend, staying by my side and helping me navigate through various aspects of growing up.
My earliest memories of pumpkin bread include coming home from elementary school on October afternoons to the scent of the freshly-baked delicacy. I would always recognize its sweet, cinnamon fragrance as soon as I walked through the door, so I would hurriedly toss off my backpack, race to the kitchen and find my mom waiting for me, smiling, with two slices of pumpkin bread sitting on the table.
We would enjoy the dessert together, talk about our days, and then I would go off, finish some homework and spend the rest of the afternoon playing. These afternoons were leisurely and fun. During my elementary school years, pumpkin bread established itself as sweet-tasting comfort after a long day at school, consistently easing me into a carefree afternoon.
Then, in middle school, pumpkin bread was not only a comforting snack, but also a loyal companion as I navigated what it meant to be a young teenager in the 21st century. I remember one day when I grabbed a box of Trader Joe’s pumpkin bread mix from the pantry.
“Do you want to make pumpkin bread? We already have some in the fridge,” my mom noted. I quickly told her no, and that, like it was obvious, I just wanted to take a picture. She looked at me confusedly, but this confusion quickly turned to amusement when I started taking dozens of selfies with the bright orange box. Once I found one that I liked, I slapped on an oversaturated filter and proudly uploaded it to Instagram with the caption, “The reason why I love fall #pumpkinbread” with an orange heart emoji.
Looking back, I laugh at myself — hard. But in spite of the cringiness, pumpkin bread played a new, albeit comical, role for me in this moment: It graciously accompanied me in one of my social media posts, withholding any judgement even as I tried to project a ‘cool’ online image that seemed so important in middle school.
Its original purpose did not disappear, because like my mom mentioned, it was in the fridge if I wanted a snack, but it was also ready to pose with me as I fumbled my way into the world of social media for the first time. The pumpkin bread took on a new role for the sake of my learning and maturing, with this cringey middle school moment illustrating how it adapted its usefulness in my life as it saw me growing up.
It’s comforting to know that pumpkin bread will be with me through various stages in life. Each fall when I welcome and celebrate its reappearance, as I would an old friend, I can trust that it will provide comfort, just as it did in my childhood, while also satisfying my evolving needs. —Emily Kim PO ’25
Many autumns have passed since then, and I am now a college student who is almost halfway through the semester. I no longer post homages to pumpkin bread in an attempt to appear cool, nor do I eat pumpkin bread and then build pillow forts immediately afterwards. I still crave it, though, and now this fall treat serves a purpose fit for my new undergraduate identity — just like I would scribble in my notes, “pumpkin bread = study fuel.”
I recently got pumpkin bread at Starbucks in the Claremont Village, where I spent hours poring over Descartes’ “Meditations,” patterns in Korean phonology and readings on the deep-rooted superiority of Western art music. With notebooks strewn across the table and dozens of tabs open on my laptop screen, it was evident that times have changed from my earlier, simpler school days.
Yet the nostalgic flavor of the pumpkin bread comforted me and provided the sugar rush that I needed to continue studying. Just like it was there for me in my elementary and middle school years, it was there for me in college — and I was grateful.
Though I still had many things left to complete on my checklist, I took a moment in the middle of studying to pause, glance over at the now half-eaten dessert in front of me and reflect. It’s comforting to know that pumpkin bread will be with me through various stages in life. Each fall when I welcome and celebrate its reappearance, as I would an old friend, I can trust that it will provide comfort, just as it did in my childhood, while also satisfying my evolving needs.
That is the power that pumpkin bread holds for me, but perhaps you feel the same about another fall delicacy. Whatever it is, I encourage you to find it and appreciate the ways in which it has satisfied you over the years. Truly treasure this time with the flavors of fall — be sure to savor them, appreciate them and hold them close. They will be gone before you know it, but there’s no need to fear, because they will assuredly return, too.