Thursday, October 30, 2008

Carving Pumpkins...

So, I carved my annual pumpkin last night. It's a Halloween tradition for me. Growing up in the UK, Halloween wasn't much of a holiday. In fact, aside from making paper witches out of construction paper, lolly sticks and glue, we really didn't do very much. Trick or treating wasn't allowed and so, at most, there would be halloween parties in which games like bobbing for apples was the main focus. I know, in recent years, the UK has become very influenced by the U.S. in regards to Halloween and nowadays, the traditions are similar between both the U.S. and the U.K. But, back when I was a young 'un (not too many years ago), we used to emphasis the spooky rather than the sweet taste of a bucketful of candy.

I think the reason we never cared is that on November 5th, we'd have Guy Fawkes night, a deliciously pagan holiday that I'll blog about on November 5th.

But I do remember when I was really young that I believed in Halloween. I truly believed there were witches and wizards flying around at night, that the dark, chilly night was full of ghosts and demons, all celebrating the fact that this was their night, a night in which they were allowed to be scary and crawl out of the shadows. I had an overactive imagination which, naturally, led to a lot of nightmares and having my parents leave the light on while I slept. Yet it seemed right, for Halloween. It made sense. As I got older, I stopped being quite so literal but I still let myself imagine those covens of witches, celebrating their night, Macbeth style.

So, when my siblings and I moved to the U.S., our first Halloween was a bit of an awakening. It was freezing, for a start, and so even though the kids had dressed up, they had to wear big coats over their costumes which took away from the effect, somewhat. Then they'd go beg for candy. No one ever really thought about the trick part or trick or treat. I always thought that was a shame. It was such an accepted thing that people would willingly give out candy that there was no opportunity to concentrate on the darker side of the trick or treat ritual. Ok, so there were a few kids who would toilet paper (t.p. for short) people's houses but since they did that year round, it didn't mean much. I think I saw eggs on someone's car once or twice but, again, there were quite a few mean kids in the town where I grew up and so that wasn't limited to Halloween either.

Not that I'm endorsing property damage. I don't. For the record. It's just one of those things...trick OR treat. I did trick or treat exactly once in my life and had enough of those revolting peanut butter kisses and Tootsie Rolls (which, in my opinion are nothing but Imposter Chocolate and will never, ever be real chocolate and thus they are worthless) to last me a lifetime. Everyone gave out treats, there was no need to trick. It seemed odd. It still does, a little.

So, I started my own traditions now that I'm older. I never get trick or treaters because I live in flat that has a locked entrance door. So, on Halloween or a day or two prior, depending on my schedule, I carve my pumpkin.

Last night was that night. For the first time, I actually splurged and bought a carving kit. Normally it's me, some knives and spoons and my own creativity. By the time I'm normally done carving, I have a spoon that is bent at a 90 degree angle from scooping, assorted cuts where I got a bit too enthuastic in my carving that haven't quite stopped bleeding yet and a lopsided yet well-meaning pumpkin with face of some sort. This year, armed with my kit, I was ready to go.

Before I could begin, there were other things I had to do. I always make a baked sweet potato for dinner with sausages and a vegetable on carving night. Last night, it was baked asparagus with garlic and parmesan (I'm trying to be better about cooking). After I'm done eating, I pop in "Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone" and begin carving.

I had lit my pumpkin spice candle. I drink pumpkin ale. Yes, I'm a bit into this pumpkin thing. Ironically enough, I don't like pumpkin pie. I do, however, like the flavour of pumpkin pie stuff. I still have yet to get my hands on the Dreyer's Pumpkin Pie ice-cream but the Baskin Robbins stuff is fantastic. Pumpkin ale is awesome.

And I carved. I used a pattern this year. I've never really done that before. I'm not sure I'd do it again. The kit supposedly had an ingenious little tool you'd roll on top of the pattern to transfer it to the pumpkin. The tool is, literally, miniscule. It's made for really, really little people, maybe the size of a smurf. My hand cramped up. I was going to carve some howling wolves but the pattern transfer thingy didn't work and I knew it'd never turn outs. I know my limits of carving skill. So I went for this weird owl-ghoul-thingy. It came out ok. It looked like the pattern. It just...lacks personality.

I should probably tell you that normally, my pumpkins represent what I'm into at the time. For three years running, I carved pumpkins that looked like Frank the Bunny from the movie Donnie Darko. Another year, it was a pumpkin that blazed the Harry Potter logo on one side, Green Day on the other. Another year, i did an evil pirate. Another year a skull and crossbones. All done, relatively, free-hand. They might have been a bit lopsided but they meant well.

This year, my pumpkin is...boring. It was almost too easy. And when it turned out, instead of what I thought was an owl, it was some weird monster with folded arms. It looked like an owl until I put the candle in the pumpkin. I'd paste a picture but due to the fact my camera has no batteries and that my cell phone camera takes pictures the size of a postage stamp, you'll have to take my word for it.

On the plus side, I did roast the seeds. I like to catch some of the flesh between the seeds, salt that and roast it. Delicious. Along with the beer and the softly scented candle, it was still a lovely, tranquil evening.

I just wish my pumpkin was less...generic. I'm debating doing another one. After all, it's Halloween tomorrow and there's still some time.

But this time, I'm not using a pattern. There's a lot to be said for the enthuiasm of creativity, even if it doesn't turn out perfectly. Using a pattern is simple but it's much for fun to go outside the lines and start carving away. Maybe I'll stick to using the tools that came with the kit though. There's a lot less blood that way.

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