Halloween comes and goes in my household with very little fuss; if we’re feeling generous, we’ll buy one of those huge packs of assorted sweets to hand out to the occasional adventurous ghoul or witch, but we tend to avoid decking out the house with cobwebs and inflatable ghosts (in extreme circumstances, my parents have even been known to switch out the lights and duck out of sight when trick-or-treaters come knocking.)
In particular, they tend to avoid the tradition of pumpkin carving. Pumpkins, in my mother’s opinion, should be reserved purely for the pleasure of eating as a pie or soup, and shouldn’t be paraded outside or left to rot on the doorstep. I, on the other hand, relish any opportunity for celebration, especially where fake blood and plastic fangs are concerned. At school my Halloween appetite had always been sated, but I worried that this year I’d be left to watch Tim Burton movies and eat jelly worms all by myself.
It was, therefore, a pleasant surprise to hear that Halloween festivities were commonplace at the WeFiFo farm; pumpkins were promptly ordered for the team (and added to the WeFiFo Facebook page!) and, as with a lot of our endeavours, it quickly became competitive.
I am not one to waver in the face of a challenge. I wanted to win, and I wasn’t going to shy away from the challenge of competing against seasoned pumpkin-carving experts.
I decided to subtly have a look on the internet for some impressive pumpkin inspiration, scrolling through a multitude of dauntingly complicated designs until I came across one that seemed manageable. Everyone was dutifully secretive about their own designs, so I had no idea whether my design was too ambitious (or, even more worryingly, too conservative.)
Doubts in my abilities began to creep in as achingly sharp carving knives appeared. It wasn’t that I had never carved a pumpkin before- I certainly had, back in the days when I’d donned my own flammable white sheet and paraded down the street to collect teeth-rotting goodies. At WeFiFo, though, I was without the protective shroud of parental supervision; I had entered new and dangerous adult realms of boiling water and kitchen knives.
Pumpkin carving is a delicate art, and my first enthusiastic slice was met with groans of horror from the rest of the team. (Note to self: if you carve diagonally, the lid will perch beautifully on top; if you carve horizontally, it won’t.) I quickly relaxed into the methodical scooping and scraping of the insides of the pumpkin, to the soothing tones of a supposedly ‘spooky’ Halloween playlist (it quickly became apparent that this was comprised mostly of 60s disco hits.)
Ten minutes later, however, whilst I was still elbow-deep in pumpkin innards, I was greeted by the worrying sight of two freshly carved pumpkins, complete with sickeningly symmetrical smiles. Both designs were simple, yet effective. One had huge eyes and miniature grin: the other was the opposite, and they made a cute (yet somehow intimidating) pair.
Monday morning dawned, and my creation was still incomplete; even scarier than the malicious grins of four completed pumpkins was the prospect of beginning the finer, more intricate details of my own. It had all gone too well so far! I managed to busy myself all morning without thinking about the daunting task ahead. Lunch was a subtle reminder: spicy homemade pumpkin soup and homemade sourdough served the dual purpose of sating my appetite and encouraging a renewed interest in my own creation.
I needn’t have worried; with precision, I managed to successfully gouge a huge grin into that arrogant orange face. There it stood; a thoroughly satisfactory pumpkin, in all respects, with a huge mouth reading ‘boo’ in only slightly unsteady lettering. Sadly, there wasn’t an unbiased judge to preside over the competition (although we all secretly felt we deserved a prize); mine certainly added a little something to the assortment of grotesque grins.
Here ends the third lesson I’ve learnt since joining WeFiFo; Pumpkin Carving 101.
[Photographs: Timothy Tyndale and Jon Stefani]