Considering how the Philippines was under American rule for nearly half a century prior to the Second World War, Thanksgiving has never really caught on as a holiday in this part of the world.
Not for us the turkey and stuffing, the cranberry sauce and hot, spiced cider; I am not sure why this is so, but turkey has never really been that popular a meat for us here in the Philippines. We tend to find it dry, tough, and stringy. Pumpkin, on the other hand, is reasonably popular – but more for its use in savory dishes as opposed to sweet. Pumpkin – actually kabocha squash – is used for the traditional pinakbet of the north: a ratatouille-like stew featuring pumpkin, eggplants, snake beans (sitaw), okra, and bitter melon. Pumpkins are also cooked with salted fish and coconut milk to make ginataang kalabasa which makes a nifty side for robust and tangy pork adobo.
That said, most Filipinos have never reveled in such things as pumpkin pie or pumpkin custard. Even international chains such as Starbucks and The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf don’t offer pumpkin spice lattes nor does Dunkin’ Donuts serve up pumpkin doughnuts when November and December roll around. In fact, if it weren’t for some sweets from a colleague who just flew in from the United States, the bulk of us would never have been able to sample pumpkin-spiced anything!
Now, to be fair, neither of the sweets we were given has any actual trace of pumpkin. They are, however, flavored with the sort of spices normally used for compounding the filling of pumpkin pie: cinnamon, ginger, allspice, nutmeg, and cloves – five spices whose combined aromas make anyone who smells them think that the Holidays and great feasts and family gatherings are drawing near.
First up: the Pumpkin Spice M&Ms at the top of this post. Each bag contains bright orange and green milk chocolate M&Ms in different sizes as opposed to being uniformly sized. (They’re all filled with spiced milk chocolate, though, and nothing else.) I couldn’t help but feel that there was something lacking in these particular morsels: sure you’ve got the crunchy candy shell, and the chocolate within – but I think these would have been better with dark chocolate which would hold up well to the spices.
Hershey’s Pumpkin Spice Kisses, on the other hand, fared better in my book. These orange-and-white colored candies are compounded with white chocolate and pumpkin spice mix. It’s a combo that works because each tempers the other: the spices keep the white choc from getting too sweet while the sugary taste of the choc balances the flavor of each spice. Rather nice; in fact, I’d keep these to drop and melt into hot cafe au lait to make sweetly spicy white chocolate mochas. 🙂
I ended up getting the lion’s share of these treats, by the way. One colleague found the combo too strange for her liking (end result of never leaving the country, I suppose, or just being ornery? I don’t really know!), so I took her share and most definitely enjoyed it on her behalf.