Happy Sunday Family Day — the day before Halloween! Do you have the pumpkins carved and costumes ready? Today is the day to get the kids together and prepare for the big day. The little Trick-or-Treaters are anxious to get started!
Carving pumpkins in our day was a much simpler task. Two large triangles for the eyes. A smaller triangle for the nose. And a big mouth with as many or few teeth as the artist spirit called for. Some years I went with a lot of teeth, sharp and pointy, interlocking in a scissors bite like a Great White Shark. Frightfully scary. Other years, my pumpkin friend took on a much more simple look with just a few, broad, flat teeth in a wide, friendly, beckoning and happy smile. It all depended on the seasonal mood, I suppose.
Nowadays it can be much more complicated, with traceable designs that are very intricate and complex, truly raising the bar on skill, talent, perseverance and Pumpkin Art in general.
It seems important to mention, whether you go “old school” or “new school” with your Jack O’Lantern designs, safety is paramount when working with children and little carvers, and close supervision required around sharp tools and knives. A small hand is no match for a paring knife.
And for heaven’s sake, please do not toss away the seeds! Pumpkin seeds are a healthy, nutritious snack and unbelievably tasty when made at home. If you have never made them yourself before, trust me — roasted pumpkin seeds are quick, easy to prepare, and delicious! Here is my favorite way to prepare them, plain and simple.
ROASTED PUMPKIN SEEDS
1 cup Pumpkin Seeds, 1 teaspoon safflower or canola oil, 1/2 teaspoon soy sauce or salt, 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder, and paprika to taste.
Carefully clean any pumpkin pulp from the seeds and wash them if necessary. Brush oil on a rimmed baking sheet, place the seeds on the sheet, spread out evenly, and roast in a 350°F oven until they begin to turn golden, about 10 minutes or so. Add the remaining ingredients and stir to evenly coat the seeds. Continue baking until the seeds are crispy, about another 10-15 minutes, keeping an eye on not to burn. This method can be used to roast any squash family seeds for snacks. (Adapted from the “Vegetarian Times Cookbook”, 1984)
How about the costumes for the little ones? All set? How about one for yourself, either greeting neighborhood Trick-or-Treaters at the door or at a party? I do not recall ever wearing a “store-bought” costume when I was little. All of my mine and my friends’ were homemade. At the time when Walt Disney’s “Legend of Sleepy Hollow” was new and all the rage, the boy across the street’s father made him a Headless Horseman outfit one year. Needless to say, he had to pull a wagon to haul home all the treats he received in the neighborhood for that one!
When all else failed and we did not have a costume prepared ahead of time, the last minute fall back for all of our group was the never-fail “Hobo” outfit. Grab up some baggy clothes and suspenders from Dad (or Mom, depending), tie a rope around your waist to hold up the pants in case the suspenders snapped, grab one of Dad’s old hats, smear some coffee grounds (and once outside and out of parents’ sight — real dirt) on your face and you were set. One of Dad’s big red, work handkerchiefs tied to a stick over the shoulder completed the outfit. Pick out an old pillowcase to carry home the loot and out the door we went, flashlight and high hopes in hand.
Back in the day, the practice of Trick-or-Treating was much safer in every respect than it has become now. Parents only accompanied the very smallest kids, and the rest of us were on our own to go as far as our legs and the weather would allow. I remember Trick-or-Treating in the snow one year — 1954 in St. Louis, Missouri. I was only going on five at the time, but memories like that tend to stick with you.
Treats into the bag included apples, oranges, and bananas. Homemade treats like cookies, cupcakes, slices of cake, candy apples and popcorn balls rounded out the list. I never did get a slice of cake home in one piece though, and always really wondered what was on that lady’s mind with that, to be honest. But we all gave her credit for trying. And I have never known the kid who would toss away a piece of perfectly good smashed cake and crumbs, anyway.
Some homes tossed coins into your bag, ranging from a few pennies to a by-gosh, honest-to-goodness Silver Dollar. But those were admittedly rare and given only by neighbors who recognized and thought very highly of you, of course. It goes without saying, that the most sought-after and coveted treat prize was a Candy Bar. And that was before some silly-head invented “Fun Size.” Seriously? Fun size? I have never really seen ‘loads of fun’ in a bite-sized candy bar, myself.
Anyway, ‘fun sized’ aside, wishing everyone a ‘Full Sized’ safe and fun Halloween! Make today a family day carving the Jack O’Lanterns, getting costumes and make-ups assembled, and getting everything ready for the big night. And for goodness sake — make up some Pumpkin Seeds for a real treat. The family will thank you.
And I thank you as always for visiting! Family time. It’s the best time. — Jim (and Red!)