Picking the Right Pumpkin
Originally Halloween featured carved out turnips that were meant to scare away a spirit by the name of Stingy Jack who was not allowed into Heaven because he was a shifty bastard. The Devil wouldn’t let him into hell either for the same reason. His spirit was forced to wander around for eternity with nothing but a burning lump of coal in a turnip to light his way, which was generously provided to him by the devil (funny that Heaven couldn’t requisition him a light). The turnip was his lantern and thus it became known as Jack’s lantern, duh – Jack O’lantern (The O prefix in Irish surnames is Gaelic for descendant). Today, since turnips are gross, we carve out pumpkins for no other reason than it’s fun to stab fruit. That being said it should be noted that picking out a pumpkin to be carved is not something that kids ever take lightly. It’s all fine with me because I remember the pride I took as a kid in picking out the best pumpkin. And, everybody has a preferred shape and texture to their pumpkins. My wife likes the short round ones, and it has to have a nice stem. I like the tall skinny variety that look like Bert’s head which, incidentally, also looks like my head. It’s that time of year again. The time to make your family feel inferior as you pick out the most kick-ass pumpkin the world has ever seen. Here are your choices.
The Perfect Pumpkin: There are people who, when choosing a pumpkin, care only about perfect symmetry. They don’t care if it’s huge or what basic shape it is. They just want the hemispheres to match. These people are commonly referred to as OCD patients.
Looks Like Me: I fall into this pumpkin purchasing category. I buy an oblong looking pumpkin every year because that’s what I think my head looks like and I think it’s funny. Watch people as they buy pumpkins and you’ll see that an unusual number of them, the pumpkins, look like their owners. The same phenomena applies to dogs as we all know.
It’s Huge!: Little boys are the worst violators. The last farm we went to charged a flat rate for pumpkins. You paid your money and went to pick any pumpkin you wanted. The catch was that you had to be able to transport it yourself back to the parking lot. My oldest boy hated that rule because it excluded the 50 pounders. He doesn’t care if it’s flat on one side or if it has mold growing on it. He just wants a really big pumpkin.
Orange and Smooth: Some people want pumpkins that are perfectly orange and smooth. They want them without discoloration and those goose bumps that pumpkins sometimes get. It must be some neurosis that causes these sorts of people.
Ew, Gross: Yes, it’s typically teenage boys who want the weirdest looking pumpkins. They go for the ones that look the most haunted. It’ll be three different colors (greenish, orangish, greyish) and completely flat on one side. The stem will be right where a stem shouldn’t be, and it will never sit up straight.
Specialty Pumpkins: Some pumpkin fanatics will opt for a square pumpkin (you can grow them any shape you want) or even choose some other fruit all together – maybe a traditionalist will like a turnip or some other sort of gourd. That’s why they always sell those decorative looking laminated gourds (or whatever they use to make them all shiny looking) at the pumpkin patches. There are always little old ladies who want something aesthetically pleasant on their kitchen table rather than something flaming away and oozing on their front porch.
Autumn is my favorite time of year. It’s crisp and fresh, it has my two favorite holidays, Thanksgiving and Halloween, and it’s the best time for long walks among changing foliage. Fall is also a time for family. Pumpkin patches and apple orchards are special family destinations. In the case of pumpkin patches and pumpkins, everybody develops their own preferences. Whether it’s the oblong Bert head or the so-huge-I have-to-roll-it kind of pumpkin, the reward is several weeks of admiring everybody’s choices and artwork. The Irish might have invented it, but we Americans have taken it to a whole new level. Happy Halloween!