When I was a kid Halloween really wasn’t a thing, indeed the only change to my daily life I noticed were Halloween themed episodes of my favourite TV shows. I lived in a country where, in October, pumpkins are out of season and it gets dark at 8:00-9:30. I lived far enough outside of town to the point where popping round to a couple of the neighbours would take more like an 1 hour than 10 minutes. So while the occasional dress-up party was enthusiastically attended (often with very little thought/preparation/effort towards my costume), trick-or-treating was never on the agenda!
Yes, I know, how very sad. However, I had enough fillings in my teeth so the lack of candy was not a bad thing!
Coming to North America, I was more than a little excited and Halloween definitely was one of the top five things I was looking forward to experiencing! Last year was so exciting with the kids all coming to our door in some really bloody fantastic costumes including minions, Elsas and Star Wars characters. I quite enjoyed the one kid struggling with a pillowcase, almost as large as him, brimming with treats. I did question his ability to carry the pillowcase to the to the next house but he confidently pointed to his father (or pack horse) standing down on the kerb!
One thing I did learn from last year, is that you should definitely buy lollies (candy) you want to eat. We were left with a lot of below average lollies last year that, thanks to our sugar addiction, we eventually finished. So I figured this year that if I’m going to have leftovers, and I’m going to eat it, then I may as well enjoy it.
I’ve also learnt more recently about some more traditional Halloween rituals, more specifically around finding love! I did research at the end of last year into a family of Irish descent who farmed in St. John’s. At harvest time, on Halloween, the family would serve colcannon for supper. Colcannon is a traditional “Irish dish of boiled potatoes and cabbage or Kale mashed together and flavoured with onions, shallots, or leeks and cream or butter” (Davidson 2014: 206). Now, in Ireland, this meal was often tied to this spooky holiday along with some romantic dealings. Charms were mixed into colcannon and if unmarried girls found them in their meal, it was a sign of a marriage to come. For other Irish girls, colcannon was spooned into their socks, tied to the front door handle, and the first man through that door was believed to be their future husband. On top of this, today I learned from Tastemade (thank you Snapchat Discover) that if, at midnight on Halloween, a young unattached Irishman or woman scoffed an apple and looked into a mirror, their future love would appear!
Now as J—- seem to be quite happy together at this point in time, I decided I didn’t need to partake in these particular rituals. However, there was one Halloween rite of passage that I was terribly excited to have a go at. This year I decided that it was time to try my hand at pumpkin carving. 🎃 That’s right, this was my very first attempt, ever! My attempt didn’t start well – I discovered that, two days out from Halloween, there is a supply and demand problem at my local supermarkets in St. John’s when it comes to pumpkins. So, unfortunately, my first pumpkin carving experience turned into my first squash carving experience.
The result: I love my goofball squash. I may have cut open the wrong end of the vegetable, it may have ended up with a silly, rather than scary, expression, and it may look like a seven year did the carving. But I think for a first Halloween pumpkin/squash attempt it went rather well. At least it didn’t turn out like this guy:
Now when we took our trip out to Lester’s Farm we did come across a recipe in their Recipe Corner for Roasted Pumpkin Seeds:
“Pumpkin Seeds, 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil, Sea salt”
“Clean the seeds until there are no signs of pumpkin flesh. The best way to do this is to put the seeds and flesh into a big bowl of water and use your hands to break it apart. The seeds will float to the top of the water. Boil the seeds for 10 minutes in salt water. Drain the seeds in a colander and lightly dry with a paper towel or tea towel. The seeds will stick to the towel, rub them off with your fingers. Spread seeds onto a baking sheet and drizzle with oil. Massage into seeds and add a generous sprinkling of salt. Spread out the seeds as thin as possible with minor overlapping. Roast seeds at 325 degrees F for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and stir. Roast for another 8-10 minutes. During the last 5 minutes of roasting, remove a few seeds and crack open to make sure the inner seeds are not burning. The seeds are ready when the shell is super crispy and easy to bite through. The inner seed should have only a hint of golden tinge to it. They should not be brown. Top with more salt, paprika, curry or siracha sauce and enjoy. Or add seeds to salads, oatmeal or cookies.”
With a lot of seeds left over from my squash carving adventure, I couldn’t just throw all the squash innards into the bin so I decided to get busy in the kitchen. Now, not to blow my own trumpet or anything, but I didn’t screw much up. I followed the recipe to the T except for the fact that I got lazy and didn’t quite get every tiny little bit of pumpkin/squash flesh off the seeds and I forgot about adding the salt before roasting them. I also didn’t read the last two sentences of the recipe and didn’t add more salt or another condiment. So I simply had roasted squash seeds and they were really good. They have a sort of meaty flavour, a bit odd and unexpected, but good.
And now for some Halloween verse from Fairiel written in 1937:
“The strangest things this night are seen,
For now ‘tis time for Hallowe’en
The owl, with glowing eyes of green,
Hoots, “Hallowe’en, ‘tis Hallowe’en.”
Elves and goblins coloured bright,
In fitting raiment come this night,
Bright-eyed gnomes and witches tall,
Bid a welcome to you all.
Fun and frolic, laughter light,
Belong to mortals on this night
While ghosts and ghoulies, spirits lean
Keep their tryst on Hallowe’en.
Tastemade [online]. Available at Snapchat [Accessed 31/10/2016].
Davidson, A., 2014. The Oxford Companion to Food (3rd Edition). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Evening Post [Online] Available at https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/EP19371030.2.217.4?query=Halloween [Acessed 31/10/2016]
Lester’s Farm Market. [online] Available at https://www.facebook.com/lestersfarmmarket/ [Acessed 31/10/2016]