jack and the turnip  

Though we've been ranting about pumpkin mania, it didn't stop us from buying pumpkins. And, of course, once we had a pumpkin, it only seemed appropriate to carve a jack-o-lantern. It's just the right thing to do at this time of year … even if you're not kid.


plain old pumpkin


Traditionally, “guisers”,the original costumed trick-or-treaters in Ireland, carried big, carved out turnips as lanterns to scare away the evil spirits on All Hallow's Eve. In America, where native pumpkins grow big and plentifully (and are probably more easily carved than turnips), a modified All Hallow's Eve (Hallowe'en) tradition was born. Being American traditionalists (as if), we opted to carve up a big pumpkin instead of a turnip.


pumpkin with design


When the kids were little, we'd hollow out a pumpkin, cut out the customary triangular eyes and nose and then add a mouth with a few teeth. We'd stick a candle inside and call it done. One year, David installed a speaker inside the jack-o-lantern to give the trick-or-treaters a bit of a rush as they approached our door and he bellowed out a wicked Dracula-laugh into a microphone. That was the extent of our ingenuity. Nowadays, there are pumpkin carving kits, how-to's on the internet and very elaborate designs for pumpkin heads including Jesus and Elvis faces. (Really?) With copious amounts of hot cider and rum to provide inspiration, Lin, David and I agreed upon an easy, but pleasing, face design and drew it on our pumpkin.


drawing the face


David cut out the top and then we scooped out the goo. Yuck!


extracting the goo


These large carving pumpkins are not really suitable for pumpkin pie, but roasting the pumpkin seeds, however, is fun and the results are tasty (and much less work than making a pie). Just lay them in a single layer on a cookie sheet, salt them if you like and roast for about 30 minutes till they're brown.


salting the pumpkin seeds


Now we were ready for the artistry and the fun. Armed with knives and more hot cider with rum, we took turns carving. It's a wonder, we managed not to hurt ourselves.


carving the pumpkin


We were heartily pleased with our results, congratulated each other, set Jack on the front steps to admire and toasted him with hot cider and rum.


jack alight


Did you carve a jack-o-lantern yet this year? Pumpkin or turnip, it's time to get moving. Don't forget the hot cider and rum.