Friday, October 30, 2009

Jack O' Lantern Boos

I carved a pumpkin Sunday. I find the process of carving pumpkins really cathartic...coming up with a design, transferring it to the pumpkin, the first stab of the knife to make the lid, scooping the gook, and the careful chiseling. All of it I enjoy. There is something wonderfully primitive about carving a gourd. I have carved spooky, animals, ghosts, ghastly faces... all the usual characters into pumpkins, and some unusual things as well. One year I even carved Dick Cheney's frightful mug into a gourd. Too bad I only make time for this type of activity once a year.

Halloween is my favorite holiday. It is one day out of the year where we let loose, celebrate the bizarre and supernatural. It revolves around trickery and sweets and I love it. Any day where we are expected to become something other than ourselves...costume our identities...I think is good for the soul.

Chef, Lil' Bit and I went to Conner's A-Maizing Acres with friends and cheated our way through the corn maze, drank sweet tea, pet cows, talked to chickens, and Lil' Bit and her best play pal spent a good 45 minutes playing in a giant corn kernel pool with a multitude of other children. It shed a whole new light on yet another use for corn the ever resourceful industrial grain.

It was wild seeing all these kids blissed out in a sea of golden was like a farm style sensory deprivation chamber...or whole grain cesspool. Needless to say this little jaunt involved a lot of hand washing. At the end of the trip, we bought two pumpkins from the Conner's pumpkin patch...glad to support our farming partners in any small way possible.

This year for our pumpkin at home I cheated and used a stencil. With time constraints, and a pumpkin to carve for the restaurant as well...I chose a witch from the stencils that came with the carving tools. I spent two hours carving the crafty Wiccan into the face of the pumpkin. I proudly set it out for display on our porch and went to bed. Looking, back I hate to say it...but how wonderful would it have been to carve Michael Jackson's face into my pumpkin. A whole new meaning to the word Jack O' Lantern. There is still time....

The following day Lil' Bit and I went to visit family and friends in Sarasota for 2 days. 2 days. When I returned Wednesday my pumpkin was moldy and was full of flies. The 90 degree weather and rain were a recipe for rot. Although, the mold does give it a special effect don't you think? I didn't even get a chance to light a candle in it. Boo.

Jack O' Lanterns actually come from an Irish folktale about a belligerent drunk named Stingy Jack. He liked to play tricks on anyone/anything, and one day he tricked the Devil into climbing an apple tree. He put a bunch of crosses under the tree so the Devil was stuck. He cut a deal with the Devil. If the Devil did not take his soul when he died, he would let him down. The deal was made...Satan freed. Stingy Jack died a lonely drunk and when he went to heaven he was turned away at the pearly gates for being such an asshole. So he went to hell, and the Devil was true to his word, but he gave him a little ember to help him light his way through limbo. He put the flame into a hollowed out turnip, his favorite veggie...and wondered limbo for all eternity.

The Irish actually carve out gourds, turnips, rutabaga and beets and put candles in them. Irish immigrants brought the tradition to the USA with them. Little illuminated beets sound fabulous...hmmm...something to think about for next year.

Good Life Quest #9/ Carve a Pumpkin

Get a pumpkin, and a carving kit. The right tools are important to this job...if you want to go hi-tech use a dremel. Think of your pumpkin as a little sculpture. Think of an unexpected design. As you scoop the gook think about the texture. Perhaps save the and toast the seeds. As you carve it, think about the last time you did something creative in 3D. Think about this tradition and what it means to you. Any memory associations? Light it with a candle and take a picture. Set it out in a place of prominence and enjoy.

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