Pumpkin Wars

It’s almost time for Halloween, boys and girls! It’s that very special time of year when we get to cast off the shackles of sartorial convention and embrace the thespian in us all. Or, as Sue Sylvester puts it, it’s “that day when boys dress like girls and girls dress like—” well, you get the picture. Add to this an abundance of pasties, puffs, candies, and chocolates, two healthy dollops of the macabre and the supernatural, and a wild saturnalia or six, and you have one of the most bizarre, hedonistic celebrations America can claim.

In other words, my favorite holiday.

I love the costumes. I love the candy. I shriek like a goosed parrot every time I go into a haunted house or hear a ghost story, but deep down I love the creeptacular too.

Sometime between birth and second grade, Halloween ceased to be a single day for me and gradually became its own season, one that did not truly start until my sister and I had picked and carved our pumpkins. For most children, carving pumpkins is a fun, straightforward event that begins in the pumpkin patch and ends with grinning (or leering) jack-o’-lanterns proudly displayed on porch steps. My sister and I, however, made a point to never do things simply if there was a more convoluted method to be had.

In my family, picking a pumpkin was not so much a selection process as it was a competition between sworn enemies to nab the perfect specimen of pumpkin-ness. My sister and I entered the pumpkin patch like drag racers armed with wheelbarrows. Bolting down the rows of squash and gourds, we set our sights on the orange prizes and piled our carts high. Trash talk—such as eight- and ten-year-olds could invent—was common.

“My pumpkin’s bigger than your pumpkin.”

“Well, my pumpkin’s prettier than your pumpkin.”

“That’s not a pumpkin.”

“Yes, it is.”

“It’s white. Pumpkins are orange.”

“It’s a ghost pumpkin, duh. And besides, you can’t even lift your pumpkin, so mine’s better, so there.

Though bitter rivals in the field, once our chosen pumpkins were in hand (and loudly touted as the Best Pumpkins Ever), my sister and I always joined forces in order to plan the best way to lobotomize them.

Insert evil laugh here Photo credit: Doctor Dan on Wikimedia Commons

Our parents never let us cut the tops off ourselves (hyperactive children + pointy objects = bad idea), but that didn’t stop me from laughing like a mad scientist when the lids were finally removed and the pumpkin brains exposed. Pointedly eschewing the spoons our parents had left out for us, my sister and I would fill our hands full of pumpkin innards and parade the goop around the kitchen, trying to smear the stuff on each other and bellowing “Guuuuuuuuuts!” like pumpkin zombies.

Eventually, we would remember why we had cut open the pumpkins in the first place and get down to carving them. In this I was always at a disadvantage, not for lack of skill (though that was admittedly scanty) but because, somehow or another, I always managed to pick the thickest pumpkin in the entire patch. (To this day, I have yet to pick a pumpkin that did not turn out to be denser than a steel bunker. I have come to believe that pumpkins, in general, must have some sort of gourdish vendetta against me.)

My kit of dinky kids’ carving knives were never a match for the thick shell, so I usually resorted to hacking away at the inside with a spoon while my sister tried to hide her smirk. She could smirk all she wanted. I had my perfect pumpkin, and now Halloween could begin.

Marit Hanson is the (other) new editorial intern at Fulcrum. Hailing from that bastion of snow and Scandinavians—Minnesota—she is a Wikipedia addict, chocoholic, and faithful advocate of all snark.

Like this?

Make sure to check out Gloria Evangelista’s addition to the Halloween canon, In Search of the Perfect Pumpkin.

Better yet, enter Fulcrum’s In Search of the Perfect Pumpkin giveaway and win the book in time for Halloween!

And for some truly impressive pumpkin carvings/designs, check this out.

All Hail the Noble Pumpkin

You could win this very book. Yes, you.

There’s still time to enter our In Search of the Perfect Pumpkin giveaway. Tweet us @FulcrumBookstag Fulcrum Publishing on Facebook, or reply to this entry with your favorite ways to enjoy a pumpkin to enter for a chance to win a copy of In Search of the Perfect Pumpkin by Gloria Evangelista.

Giveaway ends on October 31, so there’s plenty of time to find the perfect pumpkin!

As part of all things pumpkin, this fabulous pumpkin fry bread recipe from The Mitsitam Cafe Cookbook by Richard Hetzler is a great way to use to leftover pumpkin pie puree:

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup milk
1 teaspoon corn or canola oil, plus more for deep-frying
2 tablespoons pumpkin puree
¼ cup finely diced uncooked butternut squash

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir with a whisk to blend. In a small saucepan, heat the milk over the low heat until warm. Stir in the 1 teaspoon oil. Gradually stir the milk mixture into the dry ingredients to make a thick dough. Stir in the pumpkin puree and butternut squash until combined.

On a floured board, divide the dough into 6 pieces. Form each into a ball. Cover the dough balls with a damp towel and let rest for 15 to 20 minutes. Roll out each ball into a disk about ¼ inch thick. Using a sharp knife, cut an X in the center of each dough disk.

In a Dutch oven or deep fryer, heat 3 inches oil to 350°F on a deep–fat thermometer. Fry the dough one piece at a time until golden brown, about 2 minutes on each side. Using tongs, transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Keep warm in a low oven while frying the remaining disks. Dust the hot fry bread with confectioners’ sugar and cinnamon or serve with warm maple syrup.

Pumpkin Fest at the Denver Botanic Gardens

On Saturday, October 8, and Sunday, October 9, the Denver Botanic Gardens at Chatfield are hosting Pumpkin Fest.

Pumpkin, I choose you!

Pumpkin. Fest. Let’s break this down, shall we?

Pumpkin:

If you’re autumn-obsessed, like me, pumpkins are kind of a big deal. They appear every fall, stuffed with beta-carotene and ripe with possibilities: pie, jack-o’-lantern, pumpkin seed depository. I love pumpkins so much, that on the first day of fall, I pay homage to their king by watching The Nightmare Before Christmas.

All hail the Pumpkin King. Photo Credit: Warner Brothers

Fest:

A shindig. A hootenanny. A party. From the Latin festivus, which basically means “Party on, Romans!” (Disclaimer: this blogger was a terrible Latin student).

Pumpkin Fest clearly = pumpkin shindig.

And more. The Botanic Gardens are offering pony rides; face-painting; amusement rides; an activity tent with arts and crafts, pumpkin bowling, and monster hand building; a barrel train; and, best of all, a tour of fairyland guided by the Harvest Faerie.

There’s also a corn “maize” next door. Who doesn’t love a corn maze?

Actual photo of Fulcrum blogger lost in a corn maze. Hint: all paths lead to Pumpkin Fest.

We thought that our readers would be just as excited about this sweet opportunity as we are. So, we’re giving away a free book.

Win this book.

Tweet us @FulcrumBooks, tag Fulcrum Publishing on Facebook, or reply to this entry with photos of you, our dear readers, with pumpkins to enter for a chance to win a copy of In Search of the Perfect Pumpkin by Gloria Evangelista. Pumpkin carving, pumpkin eating, pumpkin throwing—we don’t really care as long as we see your lovely faces with a pumpkin.

Giveaway ends on October 25, so there’s plenty of time to find the perfect pumpkin!