Pumpkin - Halloween

I have always loved Halloween. Even though I am not a witch, wizard or other doyenne of the darkside, I revel in the pagan pleasure of dressing up and pretending to be someone I am not.

The origins of Halloween lay in the Gaelic culture. An ancient Celtic festival known as Samhain (sah-win) was a celebration of the end of the harvest season — a time when people took stock of supplies and prepared for winter. Gaels believed that on October 31, “the boundaries between the worlds of the living and the dead overlapped and the deceased came back to life to cause havoc. The festival frequently involved bonfires. Masks and costumes were worn in an attempt to mimic the evil spirits or appease them.”

My grandson zoomed in on the essence of the Halloween exercise by saying: “You don’t want a costume… you want to be a character.” (Alas… wisdom from the mouth of a child.)

When I was growing up, costumes were furtively assembled from items at hand from our parents’ wardrobes. We kids happily transformed ourselves into simple creatures — clowns, hobos, gypsies and witches. (My cousin Linda opted for being a nun one year, which was somewhat of a challenge — getting the Franciscan veil that mimicked our Catholic school teachers just right.) In those days, All Hallows Eve was celebrated at a place called “Farmer’s Field” — an expanse of green park ground in the midst of Hyde Park — where we paraded our costumes as the adults in charge passed around candies. The highlight of the evening was a huge bonfire upon which the witch of our worst dreams was burned. She screeched…. we howled (yikes!)

ME.... 1970s.. "the purple creature from space"ME…. 1970s…
“the purple space creature”

As an adult, I won contests for best costume (more than once) . My fantasy caricatures were created with care, designed to achieve the greatest drama possible. In successive years, I presented myself as the “wicked witch of the Southside” (in honor of my 48th Street Chicago roots), the “chick of the sea” (in honor of the tuna brand my mother preferred… a sparkly form fitting green dress with tail fins in which I could barely breathe or walk), and the “purple creature from outer space” (in honor of my other worldly origins). Regrettably (or not), I do not have any other photos save the one on the left, to document my creativity… but rest assured, my costumes were GREAT.

Beyond the costumes, there was the unheralded joy of carving pumpkins. Into each, a candle was placed that achieved the eerie effect of a disembodied spirit set lose to ravage the world. (My son LOVED this exercise.)Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh…. the memories…

These days, my grandkids are more than happy to wear the latest ready-made version of a Disney super hero or fairy princess — purchased from a mass merchandiser like Walmart.

So….  enough of the reminiscence.

Last week, to Julian and Violet’s great delight, I accomplished the vaguely remembered feat of carving a pumpkin. To my credit, I was able to channel the flourish of Lucy Liu in “The Man of the Iron Fist” in crafting a face of appropriate horror. After meticulously carving my masterpiece into a caricature, I set about the transformation of our pumpkin’s interior seeds into an edible delicacy, which the kids refused to eat with exclamations of “Yuk.”

Ah well.

Not to be deterred, I shall share my pumpkin seed recipe with you.

FYI: The average pumpkin has about 500 seeds, which amounts to a cup or so of raw material. They are extraordinarily healthy. Although high in calories, they are loaded with vitamin E, B complex, minerals… AND tryptophan (the same  thing that makes you want to sleep after eating turkey).

Roasted Pumpkin SeedsRoasted Pumpkin Seeds


1 medium sized pumpkin (scraped for seeds)
2 cups water
1 tbs salt
¼ cup oil (peanut)


OPEN the pumpkin by cutting a circle around the stem end and pulling off the top
SCRAPE insides of the pumpkin with a large spoon; SCOOP OUT all seeds and strings
CLEAN scrapings until all you have is seeds
PLACE seeds in a medium saucepan
ADD water and salt
BRING to a boil & then SIMMER for about 15 minutes (to soften the seed shells)
REMOVE from heat & DRAIN off all the water
ADD peanut oil & MIX well
SPREAD seeds in a single layer on a baking sheet
BAKE @400F until seeds begin to brown (10 minutes or so)
WATCH & STIR if needed so seeds cook on all sides
When browned, REMOVE from oven and COOL


1 Comment

  1. Riley Davis said,

    7 October 2013 at 3:53 pm

    I am not a witch, wizard or other “doyenne” of the darkside…

    Always good to build one’s vocabulary..

    doyen (ˈdɔɪən, French dway)

    — n

    the senior member of a group, profession, or society

    [C17: from French, from Late Latin decānus leader of a group of ten; see dean ]


    — fem n

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