When I was a kid, picking out a pumpkin wasn’t a big deal. Mom brought one home from the local produce stand and we’d dutifully carve it. There would be only one, so my brother and I would negotiate each detail: Triangle eyes? Crookedy or chicklet teeth? and, finally, what kind of nose would round things out? One of our parents would wield the huge butcher’s knife, lopping off the pumpkin’s crown, before carving out our agreed-upon design. We got to scoop out the guts (which, by the way, I still despise).
Nowadays, in our family, pumpkin creation has risen to an art form. Every year on an October Sunday, my brother and his family come over for a pumpkin free-for-all. With a football game on for background “noise,” we’ll enjoy a homemade beef stew before selecting our individual carving designs. Each of us then carefully picks his or her own pumpkin before spending the afternoon poking and sawing, crafting our pumpkins into sculptures. My nephew dutifully saves pounds of seeds, which can be cleaned, roasted and seasoned for a tasty fall treat. When darkness descends, candles light our Jack O’Lanterns en masse on my home’s front porch and wee ooh and aaah over our fabulous work.
Because I like to let the kids do as much of the carving as possible, we began using Pumpkin Masters sets when they were introduced years ago. The kits include pokers, tiny saws, and patterns. Typically, I’ll pick up several books deeply discounted at the end of each season for use the following year. We also download free patterns from the internet to keep creativity flowing.
Despite having participated in the annual pumpkin carving tradition, I had no idea of its origin. A little research uncovered that the Jack O’Lantern was first carved from turnips or beets and had its origin steeped in the Irish folktale of Stingy Jack.
We’re anticipating our annual carving event and look forward to our pumpkin purchases. How about you?