Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Pumpkin Carving 101

I tend to digress a lot here, so bear with me.  Probably I should have edited more generously, but frankly most of it amuses me, and so you can be the judge.

 Pumpkin Carving 101

The first thing you must do is find a suitable child. You might think that a pumpkin would be the first item on your list but you would be mistaken.

I don’t particularly recommend using children for many activities, but they are the most fun to carve pumpkins with.

My mother used to buy unusual shaped pumpkins and keep them around the house for indefinite periods of time. One year around January, I felt that this had gone far enough and enlisted my 6-year-old sister to help make the Jack-o-lantern. We had the very best time and the next day; no one at school would believe her story of pumpkin carving while there was snow on the ground. I got in trouble for destroying the squash. I still do not know for what purpose it was intended that we had to keep it for so long.

I do not recommend  borrowing a child without parental permission, it is just not done, but let’s say you have a kid, maybe you are related to one of an age that will still be captivated with an activity where knives are wielded at vegetables for no practical purpose, and you can go together to get a pumpkin. I am going to leave you to your own devices at this point, buy, grow, pick, steal, whatever, depending on how fast you can run towing a small child and one or more pumpkins.

Once home in the kitchen, arm everyone involved with smocks or aprons. Count on getting everything sticky and messy.

On another occasion, ( I know, I TOLD you about the digressing) I had baked a large hubbard squash in the oven to use as pie filling. Lifting the pan proved slippery and the entire pan fell to the floor and splashed up to a spectacular height of seven feet. As I was slipping around the kitchen in orange goo, a telemarketer called, and like a fool, I answered the phone, thus applying gunk to one more surface. “I can’t talk now, I told the woman, I have pumpkin up to here.” She failed to believe me.  That's the problem with my life, too many true incidents that just seem like they must not have really happened.

Newspaper is the traditional covering for your table. It is plentiful in most homes and in addition to slime; you can get newsprint all over everything. This is part of the gestalt of the deal. Note: Papers were plentiful before the national newspapers went to hell, and also before the advent of recycling, but I know of a house that is standing mostly because of the newspapers amending the strength of the walls.

The next step, planning the decoration, is a good place to use the child. Give it a large marker, be specific that it can draw only on the pumpkin or the paper, and let it go. Try not to be picky. If you are not happy with their design, you can make your own as the pumpkin has continuous sides. I kind of like making 2 or 3 faces per pumpkin, and they cast more light that way.

Cut the top off of the squash in question. An irregular cut will make you look like less of an idiot trying to make it fit again. Any attempt to make it an even circular cut will result in you spinning it endlessly over the opening and dropping it back inside with some frequency. A zigzag somewhere along the edge will remedy your lid conundrums.  Also, try to cut at an angle with the widest part at the top and the smaller part towards the inside.

The next step is everyone’s favorite, and if it is not, you will thank me for advising you to invite a small person. Put all hands inside the hole in the top and wiggle your fingers and squish the seeds between your fingers, making jokes with your small person or not, as you wish. This part engenders merriment whether or not you have good comic material, and kids have their own ideas as to just what constitutes humor, and will let you know, whether you are interested or not.

You will probably have to scrape out the insides unless your child is particularly adept, as well they might be, knowing it is your child, who is, as we all know, smarter than ours.

All that is left is to cut out your pattern, and the powers that be are not holding us to faces anymore. You can make spooky trees, owls, ghosts or perhaps a replica of Mount Rushmore, as you please.

I would do this part myself, as handing tots cutlery is tantamount to mayhem and that parents frown on getting their child back with missing parts. During this boring (for them) interval, give them a bowl of the seeds to play with, that being the most delightful part of it anyway, and try not to be too hard on yourself if things are not perfect.

Put a candle inside, leave the lid off and turn off the lights and make spooky noises at each other. This should kill at least another one minute until your child lender comes to retrieve their progeny and berate you for overindulgence.

What a happy life! Rid yourself of the messy small persons, or rush them to the tub to clean off the excess squash. Pour yourself a drink and congratulate yourself on a job well done. You are now ready for Halloween. Or perhaps not, but you have made the attempt, and that is what matters.


  1. I love how you wrote this....such a hoot!

    I love to carve pumpkins. My children...not so much.

  2. Meg,
    Thank you for visiting my blog again.
    I just took a winding path down your blog lane:) I enjoyed you sharing about your grandfather, the chemist. Your friend is right: you amble wonderfully!


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