Tomorrow is Beggars’ Night, so today was our pumpkin-carving day. This year, we had 10 pumpkins to be gutted, carved, and made ready to be implanted with candles and placed on our walkway to light the way for trick-or-treaters.
I love carving pumpkins. I like doing the emptying and carving the day before, so that the pumpkins can dry out before the big evening. I love getting ready for it, and laying out the carving implements like a scrub nurse placing the surgical instruments on trays in preparation for an operation.
Pumpkin-carving is an occasion that demands proper tools. Our implements include a plastic ice cream scoop, knives, shallow spoons, and two excellent pumpkin carving tools that are blunt but with serrated blades — perfect for puncturing the tough orange skin of the pumpkin and then slicing, safely, through the pumpkin flesh.
I especially like the tactile sensation of pumpkin carving. It seems basic and ancient, somehow, like skinning a rabbit, whittling a stick, churning butter, or performing another chore that would be done on the frontier.
You cut carefully around the stem, slicing horizontally to avoid the possibility of the pumpkin lid falling into the interior. You feel the resistance yield and hear a satisfying tearing sound as you slowly pull the top, heretofore bound like Gulliver by the tiny threads of pumpkin innards, free from the rest of the pumpkin. You look inside, and see the slimy strings and goop and seeds and smell that heady, rich pumpkin smell. You know that your hands will be smeared orange and covered with flecks of pumpkin, because emptying the gut is something that requires you to use your hands, grip the spaghetti-like strands, and yank them out.
Our plastic ice cream scoop is exceptionally well-suited to scraping the insides of pumpkins until they are free of the wet threads and seeds. (This year, we contributed the seeds to our neighbor, who will bake and salt them and use them for snacks.) I like to scour the inside walls thoroughly, so that the interiors of the hollowed-out pumpkins are as smooth as a baby’s behind. That allows the pumpkins to dry overnight and makes them better suited for candle placement and candle lighting and burning. And if your interior pumpkin walls are thinned by vigorous scraping, the candlelight will give your pumpkin a cool-looking, eerie inner glow on Beggars’ Night.
After the preparation comes carving time — when all creativity can be loosed, and the pumpkin can become a temporary, soon-to-be-discarded testament to your artistic sensibilities. I’ll share some pictures of our jack-o-lanterns, and our pumpkin walkway, when they are lit and on display tomorrow night.