Wednesday, October 31, 2012

All Things Halloween

With a foreigner in town, or alien as you might remember him better, it was a perfect excuse to get in the true Halloween mood this year.  Having been gone from the October 31st celebrations for four years, I too was excited to get my All Hallow's Eve spirit up!

We started the All Things Halloween with the traditional pumpkin carving.  We had been seeing pumpkins at the local supermarkets for a couple of weeks but wanted to save it for about a week before Halloween so as to not have rotting pumpkins on our porch - not such curb appeal in that.  We headed to our local Safeway to pick up our own medium size pumpkins - I really wanted a tall one and Joseba elected a short plump one for his first time carving event.  We didn't happen to buy any carving kit so the carving itself was a bit 1) dangerous and 2) not so accurate but did turn out very fun.

It had been years since I had carved a pumpkin, but the feeling of the pumpkin guts in your hands is quite unforgettable.  It definitely grossed Joseba out and he kept complaining that the insides smelled like raw fish.  Over 20 years carving experience here and that thought never crossed my mind, but that's a foreigner's point of view for you!  Once we extracted all the goo, we made sure to save the seeds, we got into the scraping the inside.  Seeing as my pumpkin was quite tall, I was accidentally shooting pumpkin guts all over the living room because of the angle I had my spoon in there.

We scaped out the insides and then got to the carving business with our little Ikea knives.  Joseba opted for a happy gaping tooth smiling pumpkin character while I tried to perfect the very toothy grin which didn't come out exactly as I had hoped, but alas, we had two carved pumpkins ready to light and put on our front porch!  We placed some votive candles inside and carried them down to the dark  night to light up our entrance and high-fived ourselves for our first Halloween event done right.

The funny thing is that upon carving a pumpkin with someone who has never carved one before,  you want to tell all about it, but I came to realize I didn't know why in the world we were actually carving faces into a winter vegetable for this particular holiday.  I did a little research and it turns out that the reason we carve pumpkins to celebrate All Hallow's Eve is that a dodgy fellow named Jack was always tricking the devil which really made the man below angry.  There were supposedly a list of offenses that Jack did to seal his fate, which consisted of being banished from both Heaven and Hell upon his death.  The devil, trying to get some revenge, decided to cast Jack out to the dark evening with only a piece of coal burning.  Legend has it that it was then that Jack carved a turnip and used it to light his way, which the Irish referred to as Jack of the Lantern - which you can see turns into Jack o'lantern.  Fear of this Jack spread in Scotland and Ireland so people began to carve turnips and later pumpkins and placed them in their windows and doors to scare Jack off should he decide to pay them a visit. 

With the seeds, I tried out three recipes because I had never tried to make nor eat roasted pumpkin seeds ever, strange.  Here are the recipes for the ideas I tried out, obviously scaled down to match the seed count for two pumpkins, but maybe you can try them out next time.

Sweet Curry-Cinnamon                                         Honey Roasted
1 Tbsp nut oil                                                          1/4 cup butter
1 tsp curry powder                                                  2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon                                                       1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp of fine sea salt                                            1/2 cup honey  

And here is the link to the traditional roasted pumpkin seeds with not only the simple ingredients but also the process of how to make those little slippery seeds tasty!

With spooky orange faces a-glow downstairs we then decided we should do the customary costume party extravangza and began looking for a fun party to attend.  With the help of the lovely internet, we ended up finding a Bollywood themed party, complete with an Indian DJ and all!  The search for the costume was on!

Now, it is estimated that Americans will spend about $8 billion dollars.  For a country in recession, that is a hefty sum for celebrating a spooky holiday like this, but turns out that Halloween is the holiday that has the most cash spent after Christmas.  Who would have thought!  With costumes starting around $45 at most costume retailers, it is not surprising that many Americans spend up to $100 on their attire for the events of the season; the average that Americans spend on their costume is only $28 though which is more our style.  We stopped off at our local Goodwill to see the selection on the day of the party, which wasn't our best planning, but ended up finding a girl 'cop' outfit for me at a low $20!  Sadly, we couldn't find a prisoner or police costume for Joseba there, so hid it between various pairs of jeans and kept looking for a better couple costume at various stories in the area.  When we couldn't find anything we ventured all the way out to Beaverton for a store dedicated solely to Hallowen costumes.  There of course we found a great prisoner outfit, sans ball and chain.  We headed back to the Goodwill and luckily our hiding skills had paid off and we were able to complete our Halloween costume shopping for a total of $55 together - a little below the average.

The party was strange but fun - a massive crowd with their hands in the air trying to dance like they starred in a Bollywood hit film.  At the beginning we were a bit shy but ended up having a blast as we danced with a girl dressed up as an Indian (the kind from India), Waldo from Where's Waldo, a rabbit and other various characters.

As for our actual Halloween evening, I don't think we will get much action.  Our apartment is the upper unit of a Craftsman and sadly, the entrance is on the side of the house.  I am sure most parents don't want their kids wandering down the side path of the house - and if we put up a sign that says 'more candy at the side door' it could get a bit creepy.  So, we have refrained from purchasing candy (because everyone knows if the trick or treaters don't get it, it ends up in your belly!) and will probably put our pumpkins on our downstairs neighbors porch to help them get some good costumed up kids at the door.  And, we still have one pumpkin to spare - the one that my cousin Cathy gave us from her own garden!  I will have to figure out something delicious to make with that!