‘I NEVER WANT TO SEE ANOTHER PUMPKIN,’ I said last year, with feeling. Last November I had set myself a challenge to do one positive a thing every day. It damn near killed me. I attempted to take the ‘zero waste’ approach to Halloween. I failed miserably in most respects but I did end up carving a lot of pumpkin. People started bringing me their Jack-o’-lanterns that otherwise would have gone to waste: all that pumpkiny goodness languishing in landfill. I couldn’t bear it, so I set to, peeling and chopping and popping them into boxes. I ended up posting pictures of them on FB to see if anyone fancied pre-prepared veg for soups and curries.
‘Please, let there be an end to the pumpkin,’ sighed LSB. This was ironic as it was he who bought the bastard thing in the first place with the intention of creating a festive decoration. He then proceeded to leave it there, staring at me until November 1st when he conceded ‘there wasn’t really much point anymore.’ I never would have started any pumpkin related nonsense had he not started the shenanigans.
And then, THIS year, what does he trail home from Sainsbury’s but the biggest f*ck-off sized pumpkin that one could ever imagine. He arrived with it on the 26th October, at half past five, precisely half an hour before twenty guests were due to arrive for the Older Child’s 8th birthday. This, I’m sure you will agree, is not the best time to start carving a mammoth squash, when there is beer that needs chilling and floors that needs sweeping and wives that need a fortnight in St Lucia* booked before they explode with rage and the sheer exhaustion of existence.
On the 27th October the children asked could they carve it, but we were too busy clearing the post-party debris to contemplate such a chore. On the 28th they enquired again. On the 29th we were heading to the Roe Valley for two nights and attention was diverted as we tried to catch the cat to cart her off to her ‘pet retreat’ in the Castlereagh Hills. She seemed to sense her impending departure because upon awaking she did a large shit in our shower; a most unpleasant surprise, and frankly not very ‘birthdayish’, as the Small Child opined. Of course she then legged it, refusing to return. Her reservation thus had to be cancelled and favours called in from LSB’s Dad to come and feed her, with dire warnings to check the shower on each visit.
‘NO, THE PUMPKIN IS NOT BLOODY COMING,’ neighbours heard me shout, as I dragged my bags to the car. The Older Child by now seemed to think of the pumpkin as a family member, or perhaps a pet, rather like Father Jack and his brick but with more nutritional value. We nearly had an episode, which I now call ‘Mother Close to Tears Prior to Departure’ which happens on most trips and has LSB saying, ‘we’ll get you a gin at the airport,’ or in this case, ‘Here, just drink that can of Sauvignon Blanc in the car. I’ll drive carefully.’
I thought I’d left all pumpkin related woes behind, until I heard a ping:
‘I’m going to have to make a soup when we get home,’ I muttered miserably to LSB.
‘I’m removing that app from your phone.’ he said, having looked over my shoulder. I had signed up to Olio recently in a bid to minimise waste. They send me all sorts of interesting snippets and this one stated that the number of pumpkins chucked away uneaten in October would be enough to give every person in the UK a bowl of soup.
We came home and the pumpkin seemed to be staring at me, daring me to not to do something with it. I googled ‘how to cut up pumpkin’ on Youtube and watched an Ozzie fellow set to with a carving knife, but even with his deliberate air of insouciance it still looked hard work. I had wanted an easier way. There is no easier way, with pumpkins, I have found. It’s a huge effort, and one could suffer injury if not extremely careful. But I persevered. I chopped red onion, garlic and red pepper, plus the persimmon fruit which we had bought earlier that day in the veg shop on the Ormeau. ‘Can we try that?’ asked the Older Child.
‘Why not?’ I said; I’m nice like that. Disappointing it was: rather bland and most unworthy of the 69p it cost. So I fecked it in the saucepan along with the rest of the veg, which I fried gently in coconut oil. I roasted the rest of the pumpkin, generously seasoned with salt and pepper and rapeseed oil. Our kitchen took on the heady scent of autumn, and for a while I was cheered, and a tad smug, if I’m honest.
Then I tried to blend it, forgetting that the last time I used the blender I had a disaster. Said disaster reoccurred, and the mixture leaked out, all over the worktop, all over the floor and tragically over my new M&S slippers.
‘FUCK ME,’ I seethed.
I managed to salvage some, and eventually blend it. If there is any good to be derived from this sorry tale, is that when LSB came in from work and I presented him with a bowlful, he claimed that it was a marvellous and exactly what he needed on a Monday, when he felt all cold and feeble. Still, if he dares bring another into the house next year he may well end up in the Royal with pumpkin issues unrelated to carving, but simply a blow from one aimed at his head.