Pumpkins! It’s that time of year again.
I’ve been carving them since I was little. In those days, the Mom’s job was to fuss about everything, especially stuff like learning to use knives. The Dad usually was the one who showed you how to do these things, in a typically early 20th Century guy way. I always appreciated his attention, though. Instead of lots of cautions and dire warnings, I was simply told to hold the knife this way—NOT LIKE THAT! After a final admonition to “pay attention” to the moment when pumpkin gutting would make the handle slippery, I was left on my own. (Remember, this was the ’50’s.) Out on the porch steps in a gloomy, chilly upstate New York afternoon, with our curious mutt looking on, I remember gripping the pumpkin between denim clad knees, as the only 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 local big box. 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 while taking deep breaths of that acid-sweet vegetable fragrance, couldn’t be beat.
I don’t have any grandkids handy to have this kind of fun with, but sometimes I still get a knife out and attack one of my autumn 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,overfed Tree Rat or other would nibble away a patch of orange skin. For the last 4 weeks, my beautiful, carefully chosen pumpkins–now somewhat scarred–have been on display only for me and my husband, sitting in the fireplace.
By the way, B0B, our large tiger cat, doesn’t seem as inclined to chase 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.