If you read my other blogs, you may have gleaned that I grew up in a kind of weird house. But one of the things that we did right was food. And especially for the holidays, we went all out.
When it came to fall, there was this one giant orange squash, The Pumpkin, that dominated all for about a month. Each year we would buy a huge pumpkin a few days before Halloween. I remember when I first saw how pumpkins grow, on vines, and suddenly the phrase "pumpkin patch" had meaning. I had trouble imagining how something so huge and round could have grown on such a weak wiggly little vine, and I was fascinated.
We'd get the gourd home and cut around the top, like you do. All the scooping and scraping and cleaning out of the interior of the pumpkin happened through that small orifice, so as to keep the shell intact. When I was in kindergarten I learned about toasting pumpkin seeds, so from then on we always did. I called up my mom, because kindergarten being 26 years ago and all, I don't actually remember quite what we were taught. I know that you had to clean off all of the pumpkin guts really really well right after you scooped everything out of the pumpkin, and that you spread them on a cookie sheet in a single layer to bake them. I can still distinctly remember the smell of pumpkingut. But as far as the particulars... well it turns out that ma doesn't remember either. But this recipe seems pretty much on the money. Maybe that's too long a bake time? We didn't get a pumpkin this year, so if you try it out let me know how it goes!
So anyway, once the business of gut scraping was done, my dad usually did the honors of making the pumpkin look like some scary Halloween thing. He was pretty good at it. Some years turned out better than others, of course. But he's quite the creative type, and there were definitely some masterpieces.
My mom kept whatever chunks he cut out to make the jack-o-lantern face, and then the day after Halloween she hacked the pumpkin up and froze the lot (minus whatever had gotten charred or waxed from candles or any bits that were getting funky). Then, about a month later, this is the pumpkin that became our Thanksgiving pumpkin pie. And if you want the truth, I've never liked any pumpkin pie but my mother's.
So that's my pumpkin story, the cycle of The Great Pumpkin in my childhood household. I think this year, beginning with this Thanksgiving, is when we - Jonathan and I - begin to claim these "family" holidays as our own. Holidays for the family that is me and him. And our friends of course: the built family. I'm excited about it, and hopeful. And excited and hopeful is a nice way to feel, when headed into this dark-and-dreary but chock full o' holidays season. ;)