This week leading up to Halloween in the lunchroom, my colleague asked: so what are you doing for Halloween (with the undertone: “being a Canadian”)?
Halloween is generally a day for kids and for parents of very young children to reap the benefits because lets face it, the cuter the kid is, the more candy they get. Children dress up like the latest commercialized movie characters and go to people’s houses saying “trick-or-treat” and its always the latter: free candy. The adults usually make their own “adult fun”. Like having parties for example, the ladies dress up in something super sexy with as little “costume elements” as possible; like a cat where they wear a black headband with ears on it, a tail, and maybe a bit of black makeup for a nose and whiskers. The rest of the outfit is a black mini-skirt and a barely-there shirt. The men are usually a little more creative wearing something funny or clever.
Being in Belgium this year, I learned that Halloween isn’t actually an American holiday. It originated from Ireland. I found out that ancient Celts (Irish) believed that on October 31, the border became thin between this word and the Otherworld and so spirits could roam the earth. It was believed that wearing “costumes” and masks would ward off the spirits because they looked like scary spirits. I also learned where the tradition of carving pumpkins came from:
The souling practice of commemorating the souls in purgatory with candle lanterns carved from turnips, became adapted into the making of jack-o’-lanterns. In traditional Celtic Halloween festivals, large turnips were hollowed out, carved with faces, and placed in windows to ward off evil spirits. The carving of pumpkins is associated with Halloween in North America where pumpkins are both readily available and much larger – making them easier to carve than turnips.
Then America’s candy companies went crazy and marketed their treats so that Halloween has become what it is today and it was adopted in Canada and other parts of the world.
This year, being alone, I couldn’t dress up. Well I could have, but that would have been weird. I decided to carve up a pumpkin. Not into a Jack’O Latern, but into big chunks which I baked in the oven. I scrapped out the insides and I cooked the seeds. I only tasted a few because last year I ate all the seeds in one day. In my defense there weren’t that many in that particular pumpkin. This year, however, the pumpkin had many more seeds, probably because it was grown naturally without any artificial chemicals.
I mashed the cooked pumpkin and ended up with a giant bowl of orange goo. I made a pumpkin loaf, which unfortunately only calls for one cup of pumpkin puree. So now I have probably 30 cups of pumpkin left and I’m not sure what to do with it. I wonder how many cups of pumpkin a soup requires? I know I could make a pie, but I made homemade pumpkin pies with fresh pumpkin last year. I made four pies to be exact and there is still a large Ziploc bag of pumpkin in mom’s freezer. So this year I want to try something different. For now the leftover pumpkin will stay in the fridge until I can find a tasty recipe requiring more than one cup of pumpkin.
I didn’t use the whole pumpkin because ¾ of it was already too much. I looked at the last quarter and decided that a spur of the moment Jack’O Latern wasn’t a terrible idea. So I carved a cat, it took me about three minutes to finish it. While it took me about 45 minutes to bake the pumpkin loaf, which doesn’t include the previous day’s chopping and baking of the pumpkin puree.
And as a special treat, I also made homemade caramel corn. The “corn syrup” in Belgium is not at all like the kind in Canada so the popcorn turned out a little darker and has a slightly more “molasses” flavoring since the “candy syrup” was black instead of golden. I even used peanuts and walnuts (because I couldn’t find pecans). I was nervous to burn the sugary coating in the stovetop pot so it came out a little grainy from the brown sugar, but the taste test went over well anyway.
Next year, I’m going to a party and maybe, just maybe I will bring something baked with pumpkin (from this year’s leftover puree).