Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Pumpkin Carving

Getting into the fall season, I recently picked up a pumpkin to carve, and, of course, to bake and eat the delicious pumpkin seeds. If you've never tried them, it's a must-do.

Pumpkin seeds: After emptying the pumpkin, put the seeds in a strainer and run through with water. This gets all the orange pumpkin gook out. Then, let them dry for a bit. Either spray the bottom of a cookie sheet or stick aluminum foil down. Lay them all out and bake for 10 minutes (or more, until crispy) at 375. If you want some flavor, sprinkle salt on top and mix around. Don't let the crystals just sit.

But, as my roommate and I were carving the pumpkins, I got thinking about the whole idea of pumpkin carving in general. Where did this originate? Why is it so common for me to just pick up a pumpkin and carve a silly face in it? Why are we doing this?

So, being the curious girl that I am, I looked up the deeper meaning of pumpkin carvings on Wikipedia:

-Originating in Europe, these lanterns were first carved from a turnip or rutabaga.

-Believing that the head was the most powerful part of the body containing the spirit and the knowledge, the Celts used the "head" of the vegetable to frighten off any superstitions.

-The name jack-o'-lantern can be traced back to the Irish legend of Stingy Jack, a greedy, gambling, hard-drinking old farmer. He tricked the devil into climbing a tree and trapped him by carving a cross into the tree trunk. In revenge, the devil placed a curse on Jack, condemning him to forever wander the earth at night with the only light he had: a candle inside of a hollowed turnip.

-The carving of pumpkins is associated with Halloween in North America, where pumpkins were readily available and much larger, making them easier to carve than turnips.

-In America the tradition of carving pumpkins is known to have preceded the Great Famine period of Irish immigration.

-The carved pumpkin was originally associated with harvest time in general in America and did not become specifically associated with Halloween until the mid-to-late 19th century.

Interesting, huh?

I've seen some funny pumpkin carvings, some clever, some very detailed, others that are inappropriate. I think it takes talent to get those really detailed ones that took more than just a carving of two triangle eyes, a triangle nose, and a chunky mouth (which is mine this year). I've been feeling real creative lately.

Anyway, that's the pumpkin's story. Below I have some carvings from this year and other years, along with Marley this year. This was her first Halloween and she was very curious about these pumpkin things. She did grab a seed in her mouth, but I don't think she liked it very much.

What do you think of pumpkin carving? Any good, unique carvings?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think of Pumpkin carving as a good platform for the flickering candle and also as a more elaborate organic lantern for lighting up the outside.

I would say, the simpler the design, the better. I much prefer the triangular eyes and bulky features/simple carved shapes carved along the sides next to the over the top carved images.

Speaking of which, how did Halloween become a fest of silly costumes?

Most puzzling.