When I was little, we always got our pumpkins from the same farm. I remember it being pretty far away, but 10-year-olds don’t generally have the best sense of time and distance, it probably was no more than 20 minutes from my house. Wherever it was, it was far enough away that I usually fell asleep en route, and woke up when the car bumped its way off of the paved road and onto the grass packing area, when I’d rub my eyes and scramble out of the car towards the wooden archway that served as the entrance.
Just beyond that archway was one of the most hilarious things my young mind had yet to encounter: two wooden outhouses. Of course, these weren’t functional bathrooms, and instead of the expected interior, er, accomodations, there was a male scarecrow in one and a female scarecrow in the other. Both were fully-dressed (he in overalls, she in a frumpy dress), sitting on the toilet seats mounted to the back wall of each structure. And when you opened the door, both would begin shouting at you. “Close the DOOR! UGH. COME ON. Close the door.” It never got old. I opened and closed that door a million times during the years that we went to that farm, and though the voice recording never changed, I never failed to find it just as hilarious as the year before.
There was also a hayride compotent to pumpkin-picking at this farm, the tractor leading it’s wagons through a maze of Halloween decorations and life-sized replications of cartoon characters. And finally, we were at the pumpkin patch.
Both Brother and I were allowed to choose one smaller pumpkin and a few gourds, and I was perpetually torn between the white, ghost-shaped ones and the ones that looked (and, dried-out, sounded) like moroccas. We also, as a family, selected one large pumpkin that Dad would carve. This, predictably, was virtually impossible to agree upon. Much like picking out our Christmas tree every year, my family is both stubborn and particular, and not just any pumpkin would do. We each had to have our say, and it was never a short process. Heated debates regarding each pumpkin’s merits and shortcomings were common, and there was always dispute about whether a tall, thin one was preferred over a fatter, perfectly round pumpkin.
Still, we always left with a giant pumpkin (or, as I used to pronounce it before I went to speech class in elementary school to learn to pronounce words with all of the letters they include and none of the extra ones they do no, pumping), which Dad would carve in the middle of the kitchen table, on top of several layers of newspaper, while Brother and I carved with much duller knives on either side.
The mess, the surprisingly thick outter shell, the big reveal at the end, and the debate over what to carve into the pumpkin are just a few of the things that make the process so festive and fun. Not to mention, of course, the roasted seeds from inside, spiced up with lots of salt and some heat. In the time it takes to carve out your face of choose, these seeds bake up crunchy and delicious, and completely addicting. And yes, I do know that pumpkin-carving season is over, but squash season is not. This recipe will work with the seeds of any squash or pumpkin. And if you want to make a little jack-o-latern out of your next acorn squash, I won’t judge you.
Spiced Pumpkin Seeds
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp cumin
The seeds of one large pumpkin
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and cover a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Clean the seeds as best you can – mostly to remove the sinews that connect them together. Spread them evenly across the baking sheet, sprinkle with all the spices, and toss a little to coat.
Bake for 45 minutes, or until the seeds are browned and crunchy.