I am quite ashamed to admit that since I was little (and really don’t remember) I haven’t ever carved a pumpkin. I know, it’s silly. I feel like there are quite a lot of things, like generic activities- that I have never done. This could be because I grew up in Malaysia so we did different things to kill time when we were younger to the kids in North America. Some of these things that I missed out on include:
- Doing a movie marathon at the theater (watching more than 1 movie at the cinema in 1 day, back to back movie watching)
- Going to the PNE (Pacific National Exhibition) theme park (I JUST scratched this off as well yesterday as I went to Fright Nights with some friends in an attempt to scare my pants off or as my British friend Rachel refers to as “scare your tits off” (she is much less vulgar than I just made her out to seem)
- Gotten the doughnut/coffee combo at 49th and parallel– or eaten a doughnut in Vancouver for that matter
- Ridden in a limo (which in Vancouver tends to be a typical mode of transportation when in big groups)
The list could go on forever, but then this post would turn into what it is not- which would be a bucket list. That post may come later, but for now, I am trying to remain focused for the sake of the post and cohesion of the blog;) So, on one of the first truly cold winter nights of the season yet, which was last Saturday, my friend Paulina and I were cordially invited to join my brother and his lovely girlfriend at their humble home for a night of Halloween festivities (including Halloween music + pumpkin carving + pumpkin seed roasting + delightful, comforting, conscious conversation).
I think one of the reasons I haven’t participated in pumpkin carving activities since I was a little one (because looking back I have had ample opportunities to, I mean really- all I would have to do is go buy a pumpkin and some tools and do it at home) was because anything involving the creative arts (painting, sculpture, drawing) slightly repelled me. I used to always say “I am not creative” however, now I know that the term ‘creative’ can describe a vast amount of things, and do not necessarily have to involve a tool, pencil or brush. This is often a conflict that comes into play when dealing with language. A meaning can be attached to a term or phrase (an emotional meaning, a memory, a rationalization, a definition) and you then find yourself restricted because of that attachment (does that make sense)? My mother tends to be a victim of this process quite often. We will be having a conversation about nothing, anything and everything, when all of a sudden we will reach a point where tension arises because I have used a word that she generally didn’t agree with or did not resonate with her in the context of the conversation. By this time, the conversation is stopped- and we are onto the topic of the word and have completely lost our way. I am sure I am a victim of this too- as are many people; language can be very restrictive. Is there really a word for every thought, feeling & emotion ever?
This slightly reminds me of food (Ah, there’s the point to all of this) and the words that are used to describe all of the tastes. In every language and culture there are different forms of describing taste and food. For instance, in Ayurveda there are the 6 tastes: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, astringent & pungent. All food fit into one or a combination of these tastes. Similarly, the word ‘umami’ has gained momentum in recent years. There seems to be some confusion on what ‘umami’ really means, but does there have to be a consensus on it’s meaning? It is a borrowed term from the Japanese language and typically refers to a “pleasant savory” taste, or so I am told by good-old Wikipedia. What if we used used gibberish to depict how we feel about food and the tastes. We do already, but these also have a meaning attached to them. Imagine if you served someone a slice of your home-made pie that you were very proud of and thought was delicious and your guests blurted out “yuuuuuuuucccckkkk”. Would you be immediately offended and want to throw the plate of pie in their face? If you answered yes- that would be acceptable, because I definitely would too.
So, back to Halloween & pumpkin carving. If you know me at all, you will know that as soon as we started choosing designs of what to carve, I was immediately on Google searching for “horse pumpkin carving designs”. In this way, I am definitely predictable. If I am going to attempt to be ‘artistic’ and ‘creative’ in the way that I conceived of as creative when I was younger- I was going to only attempt a horse face. That would be the only thing that would be worth the pain for me. Now that I think about it, I probably would have also been happy to carve a bunch of kale, or a bowl of fruit or a cauliflower- but really… that would be way too stereotypical of me (now that I think about it though I am actually kicking myself that I didn’t do that, would’ve been great for the blog and for what I previously coined as its “cohesion” (gotta love consistency).
So, why pumpkin seeds?
Pumpkin seeds are truly one of my favorites out of the nuts and seeds family. They are so versatile and really very tasty. You can add them to salads, curries, desserts, breakfasts (oatmeal, chia pudding, muffins, granola, yogurt, pancakes)- the options are endless. Taste and versatility aside- they are also amazingly nutritious. You can have them shelled, unshelled, salted, roasted, sweetened, add some curry spices to them. Pumpkin seeds are filled with nutrients, some of the most essential and important include: Vitamin K, thiamin (B1), riboflavin (B2), vitamin B6, niacin (B3), folate, protein, manganese, magnesium, zinc, and a good source of your essential fatty acids (including monounsaturated fats). Really, you can’t go wrong.
One of the issues surrounding nuts & seeds- most especially recently is fats and cholesterol and their bad rep. When the average person hears the word cholesterol their minds generally, immediately go to images of blocked arteries, cardiovascular disease and heart attacks. This is something that is shared in most of the nutrition world, that is quite frustrating! Most commonly, when you read or hear about cholesterol in the media, they are referring to LDL (lost density lipoprotein) cholesterol, which is also coined as “bad” cholesterol. This is the cholesterol that when built up in the blood simply put, builds up in the walls of the arteries causing restricted blood flow. This type of cholesterol is what you get from the Standard American Diet (SAD diet) including things like fried foods, animal fats, saturated fats & hydrogenated fats.This is however, only one of 3 types of cholesterol in our body.
The other thing with fats is the idea that all fat is bad for you. The thing is, anything in excess consumption isn’t good for you. The easiest way to think about it is to think about how it is in nature. How are things presented to us in nature? Is there an abundance of slaughtered, skinned, and de-boned meat just waiting in the pastures for humans to eat, naturally? I don’t think so. The same thing applies to nuts and seeds. There is no such thing as a field filled with picked and shelled nuts, ready to eat. We, as a society, have become so accustomed to the concepts of ‘fast food’ and ‘buffets’ and ‘all you can eat’ that we have forgotten the concepts of ‘working for your food’, ‘growing your own food’ and ‘rationing food’. These are all concepts that I think are important for us to try to remind ourselves of. Of course, I am not saying that you should abandon your car, high-rise apartment and move to the forest and being foraging. Everything within reason. Alternatively, I am encouraging you to be more conscious of your food. Where did it come from, what processes did it go through from planting/growth to your plate/mouth. These are all helpful questions and ideas to confront yourself with- just in terms of opening up your awareness and living a natural, sustainable, connected life.
I was reminded of some of these things- that lovely, rainy, cold Saturday, pumpkin-carving night. The pumpkin wasn’t presented to me carved, gutted and seeded. We made a night of it. Newspaper covering the table, tools everywhere- it was really such a special thing to share. It would have been even more wonderful if we used the pumpkin to make our dinner (and possibly dessert) as well. Next time!
So, from me an amateur pumpkin-carver comes:
How to carve a pumpkin: Get to your tool shed!
- 1 pumpkin (try getting a reasonably larger one- this will help in the carving process, most especially if you are planning on doing any detail)
- Several carving tools: I am not totally sure of what these are called (once again, my limited experience as a “creative” carver/sculptor). Due to my lack of experience, I am calling the expertise of beloved Martha Stewart’s Blog
- Several sheets of newspaper: Trust me you will need this. It is not a clean activity
- Halloween music (check out Songza)
- 2 large bowls (one for gutting the pumpkin & one for the pumpkin seeds)
Get to the your Carving Table!
- Start by cutting out the top of the pumpkin (“The lid”)- cut this wide enough so that you will be able to fit your entire hand into the pumpkin, in order to gut and carve and hold the pumpkin properly and comfortably.
- Grab your ‘gutting’ tools and begin to ‘gut-away’. This is a bit of a dirty job and can prove to be quite frustrating depending on the type of pumpkin.
- Separate the ‘gut’ and the pumpkin seeds into the respective bowls
- Grab a pen/pencil (I recommend a sharpie) to draw out your design (I used a Google image and basically copied the drawing)- you could also take a stab at tracing the design by using tracing paper (this is if you are attempting something that is art-gallery worthy….clearly I did go this far)
- Once your design is on, and you have a clean and gutted pumpkin, carve away! (if you run into some procedural/design errors such as cutting out a seriously important part of your carving (ie. I accidentally cut out my horse’s eye) don’t fret! After all, this is a creative game- get out your tooth pics and skewers, its salvageable.
- Place a tea light candle on the inside of the pumpkin, turn off the lights- and admire your life’s work.
ONTO the Pumpkin Seeds!
- 1 large baking tray
- 1 large bowl for pumpkin seeds
- 1 tablespoons sea salt
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
- 1/2 tablespoon black pepper
- 2 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp cumin
- any other spices you want to dress you seeds with: turmeric, cayenne, maple syrup, red chilli flakes, ginger, lemon zest, orange zest, nutritional yeast
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees
- Place all of your pumpkin seeds into 1 large bowl (lets say 1 large pumpkin = 1 cup of pumpkin seeds)
- Add your oil/butter I would recommend about 3 Tbsp of one or the other
- Add your himalayan salt (Mine were quite salty (I was catering them to my crowd, to each their own): 2 Tbsp of himalayan salt
- Add some fresh ground pepper — 1 1/2 tbsp
- With your hands, or a large spoon- mix all the seeds with the oil, salt and pepper
- Place the dressed seeds on the baking tray and place in the oven
- Cook for about 30 minutes (use a spatula to mix them around every 8-10 minutes to ensure that you cook the whole seed and get all seeds roasted
- Remove from oven and enjoy! These can be delicious on their own or as a topping to another dish. They are really wonderful on their own when they are still warm and toasty