Thursday, November 11, 2010

Pumpkins, etc.


Pumpkins—it’s that time of year again. I’ve been carving them since I was pretty little. In those days, the Mom’s job was to fuss about stuff like learning to use knives, but the Dad usually was the one who showed you how to do it in the typical early 20th Century brusque guy way. I appreciated it though. Instead of lots of cautions, I was told to hold the knife this way—NOT LIKE THAT—After an admonition to “be careful” when pumpkin guts made the handle slippery, I was on my own, out on the porch steps in a chilly upstate New York afternoon. I remember finally gripping the pumpkin between my denim clad knees, as the best way to hold it still.

These days getting the kids ready to pumpkin carve can resemble the planning of an expedition to the North Pole. You must use ‘specially scary store-bought patterns, and you certainly must employ one-use carving knives, bought from the Halloween displays in the mega-mart or supermarket. Of course, cutting pumpkins is still big fun, and gives expression to the desire to create something charmingly gruesome—my particular favorite being the one in which the pumpkin appears to be vomiting its own guts. Artistry and/or marketing aside, as a child, the test of getting acquainted with my own hands and that lethally sharp old meat knife, and to experience a large squashes’ slimy sticky insides up close and personal, to inhale that acid-sweet big squash fragrance, couldn’t be beat.

I don’t have any grandkids handy to have fun with, but sometimes I still get a knife out and attack one of my pumpkins. I always buy them, even this year, when we had so many squirrels that I couldn’t display them on our porch. As soon as I tried, some fat, lazy tree rat of other would try nibbling away a patch of orange skin. So for the last 4 weeks, my beautiful, carefully chosen pumpkins have been on display only for me and my husband, sitting in the fireplace.

By the way, B0B doesn’t seem as inclined to catch such dangerous prey as squirrels now that he has a reliable, comfortable crash pad. He did bring me three tails this summer—he lays his trophies, like scalps, out on the porch—but that was nowhere near sufficient to stem the tide. If we were a little farther out in the country, I swear we’d be regularly eating Brunswick stew!