Friday, October 31, 2008

On smashing pumpkins

Halloween in New England is a sight to behold. It just about trumps Christmas for wonderfully hokey front yard decorations.

I look one way and my nieghbor's yard has ghosts, a tombstone, and a skull and a fingerbones sticking up out of the lawn. Cornstalks are teepeed around a front light post. The piece de la resistance: a person-high pneumatic ghost inflates and deflates, springing up and collapsing into a plastic pumpkin.

Look the other way and another neighbor has a virtual picket fence of dancing skeletons; ersatz spider webs and orange twinkle lights coat the bushes.

I love it.

We have always gotten into the spirit with leaf-stuffed a scarecrow dummy and with what are by far the best carved pumpkins on the block. It was one of the unexpected perks of having kids, discovering that my husband had an amazing talent for pumpkin carving.

That one up top is among his best.

Our daughter Naomi got into the spirit early on... here's a side-by-side early effort (hers is on the left)>>

And here's one from quite a few years later -- as you can see, she improved with age. This jack-o-lantern has a lovely moony-spooky look about it. Far more subtle than her father's work.

Do you carve pumpkins? If you have any photos of your work, please email them and I'll post them over the weekend.

In the meanwhile, here's what to do with pumpkin seeds:


1. Scoop them out of the pumpkin and pretend they are ghost's intestines; smear some of the goop in your sister's hair.

2. Try to scrape off the slime and hairy bits of pumpkin innards; rinse the seeds in a collander.

3. Spread them out on a layer of paper towel and pat them dry.

4. Sprinkle them with a bit of olive oil and coarse salt; mix til coated.

5. Spread on a cookie sheet and roast in a 300-degree oven, checking after 10 minutes (and turn the seeds) and then every 5 minutes after--you want to catch them when they've just browned and crisped but not burned. Even goblins won't eat burnt seeds.

And you CAN cook the remains of a jack-o-lantern--just not the parts that got burnt by the candle. Make it into pie or cook it the way you'd cook a butternut squash.


  1. Wow! Yesterday your husband was "Jughead"--who I did decide was the most endearing of the characters, and probalby went on the invent the computer (or pantyhose,remember Back to the Furute?) and today he's an artisan!

    Anyway--what a stellar carver! And Naomi,too. (What do they use? Exacto knives? DO they plan, or is it free-form? In other words, pantsers or planners?)

    Did you see there's a big controversy in some local town--neighbors are upset because someone's front yard is TOO scary. One item is half a body--cut off at the waist with red gunk coming out, nailed to a cross.

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  3. ACK! Typical me...blaming the younger one for what the older one wrought. (Or have I got that backward?) Sorry, Molly.

  4. Oh my gosh your family is so talented Hallie! I'm afraid we were strictly of the triangles for eyes ability level--certainly nothing worth photographing! Some day soon you'll have to scan in some of Jerry's amazing cartoons...

    Happy Halloween. We're meeting some friends an upscale restaurant in New Haven tonight. I'm wondering whether to drag out my Wonder Woman costume...

  5. Hallie,
    I think I already told you about how when we were still in college, Bill and I carved a pumpkin to ressemble my room-mate. She was extremely gregarious and sometimes loud, so we carved a HUGE mouth in the pumpkin, put a radio inside, and sprayed it with her perfume. She thought it was a riot.

    But that's my only pumpkin art experiment. Lannie and Spike used to carve pumpkins -- but it was really all Lannie -- Spike and I barely helped.

    Now, instead of carving the pumpkin and cooking the seeds, I use the pumpkin to make curried pumpkin soup.

  6. Hey Molly, you could probably get a pretty good Halooween present now..

  7. Those pumpkins are incredible. I've never known anyone who could really do that. I can't do pumpkins other than to stack them by the front door.

    A few years back I decorated outside with plastic bones. I thought I packed them all away, but months later the gardener found one in the soil and it scared the bejesus out of him. Grownup that I am I also got a kick out of the time I left a houseguest at my place and didn't tell her I'd left four rubber fingers sticking to the bathroom door (so it looks like there's a hand copming around from the other side...) heh, heh...Happy halloween..