Yesterday afternoon, Meghan Says and I hosted a pumpkin party at our ramshackle farm / narrow Toronto townhouse.
Folks came from as far as Parkdale, (though most were from within walking distance), many sporting knives, some in costume, all gamely trooping in to carve (or to watch the carving of) jack-o’-lanterns.
At left is the one I did, complete with what I cheerfully refer to as scrofulous tumours. I’m not actually sure what that means, but it sounds as delightfully awful as it looks. The pumpkin came that way and I serendipitously made use of the fact. Note, too, the rag-mop hairdo. That’s another bit of serendipity: the innards of this pumpkin were spaghetti-squash-like, and I put the gunk to good use.
I also added an apple eye, an incised nose, and some carefully scraped and carved teeth. I was rather pleased with the result, especially after I earned a compliment from one of the onlookers. “You’re remarkably good at this,” she said.
Well, I guess, I said. I grew up with it. Carving the jack-o’-lantern was a pretty big deal when I was a kid. My parents took it seriously, and I do too. In fact, when I went to Pearson College, (an international school where I represented Ontario), one of my contributions was to carve the jack-o’-lantern for my residence.
I remembered that yesterday when I was up to my elbows in a pumpkin, scooping the guts out onto the dining room table – which I’d wisely covered with a sheet of plastic vapour barrier – and just letting it flow.
Yeah, I know how to do this, I’ve done it before. If not every single year, certainly for enough years that it feels like instinct.
It may be silly, this ritual of carving a big orange fruit into a face. Its origins may be obscure and its meaning trivial, or mostly forgotten. But it feels familiar, and fond, and it’s pretty damn fun.
It occurs to me that this is what they call “culture.”