Elliot is only 5 so he hasn't carved too many pumpkins. But Elliot says, "The part I like best is when you cut the top off the pumpkin and stick your hand inside and touch its squishy brains." He says he likes the "wormy" way the seeds and pulp feel. His sister, Emily, 9., rolls her eyes and gives him a boys-are-such-creeps look.
Emily considers the annual carving of the pumpkin an art. She hovers over her father while he cuts out the mouth and eyes, her tongue following each insert of the knife. Elliot takes a slimy seed and pops it through his fingers at his sister. She squeals and brushes him aside.
Emily is a sticker for details. She has explicit directions on how the thing should be done.
Practice drawing evil sneers or impish grins on a piece of paper. To make sure the eyes don't come out crooked, draw a cross lightly on the pumpkin to center the eyes, nose and mouth.Copy the design onto the pumpkin. If you are doing the designing all by yourself, go ahead and draw on the pumpkin with a crayon so if it comes out uneven you can wipe it off and start again. A word of caution: Don't use a felt tip pen because the ink sinks in and everybody can see where you made mistakes. Then get the sharpest knife you have in the house (a good filet knife for the big stuff and a small pocket knife for details like teeth) and begin. Cut the top off about 2 inches from the stump. Then cut all the seeds and gooey stuff off the bottom of the top. Stick your hand in the pumpkin and remove the "brains" and the seeds. Scrape the inside of the pumpkin with a spoon so it's all clean. Save the seeds. (We'll get to that later.) Now on with his face.
Following the lines drawn, carefully stick the knife in, pull it all the way out and stick it in again. Continue cutting this way rather than sliding the knife along. If you try to saw out the pattern all sorts of disastrous things can happen. Don't worry if you slice a tooth off by mistake. It can be stuck back in with a toothpick or a straight pin.
After the features all cut out you might want to do some touching up from the inside. Slice off a little here and there so that when you look it straight in the face it hasn't got a glop of pulp in the way.
If embellishments are needed, carrots make very good noses and ears. Carrot hair can be made by shaving long ribbons from the carrot with a potato peeler and slicing the strips starting about 1/2 inch from the top. Attach with a straight pin. Set the pumpkin aside and admire it while you cook the seeds.
Put the seeds in a colander. Run water over them and scrape the goop off with your fingers. Drain by shaking in a colander with a plate over the top. Don't worry if they are still slippery: it will burn off when you cook them.
Turn the oven on to about 250 degrees and place the seeds in one layer on a cookie sheet. Sprinkle them with lavish amounts of salt and pepper, or experiment with celery salt, veggie salt, or garlic salt. You might want to do a few test batches before you attack all the seeds with one spice.
Toast the seeds in the oven until they are a light golden brown, 45 minutes to an hour. The shower you cook them the better. If you cook them too quickly they will still be wet when browned. Check the seeds every so often and stir them around so they all get cooked. When they are golden and crunchy take them out of the oven and eat.
To light, place a short fat candle inside the pumpkin, and replace the top.
To keep the pumpkin from molding too quickly, keep it in a cool place when not on display.
Emily says to put the pumpkin on a window sill outside, rather than on the front steps, so "horrid little boys like Elliot can't smash it."