How to carve a pumpkin for Halloween

Article published on Oct. 31, 2011
Article published on Oct. 31, 2011

This article has not been vetted by an editor at Paris HQ

Every festival has its own kitchen rituals, or at least it does in my parents’ house in Scotland. Christmas cues gingerbread houses, while easter is somewhat easier with chocolate nests the order of the day. Halloween meanwhile heralds the arrival of that candle-lit guest, Jack-o-Lantern

When I was ten years old, my aunt and her family moved to the United States. What this meant to me in practical terms was that my family regularly received bizarre but surprisingly useful kitchen utensils as presents. From bagel slicers to garlic peelers, you name it: our kitchen probably has it. However, none of these gifts was greeted with quite as much excitement as the pumpkin carving kit, which included a variety of oddly shaped knives as well as a collection of patterns for carving out of your pumpkin. Thus it was that every year towards the end of October our kitchen was filled with sticky orange pulp, as my sister and I sat, lines of concentration on our brows, and sawed ghostly eyes and sneering mouths into our jack-o-lanterns. Witches, cats, coffins, banshees, broomsticks: over the course of my adolescence the steps up leading our front door were home to them all.

Read 'European idioms: a pumpkin this Halloween' on

Oddly, I can’t actually remember eating the pumpkins, although I know that we did. Halloween does not taste of pumpkin pie for me but of toffee apples or clementines, earned out guising. (Guising is the Scottish version of trick or treating. Americans ‘trick’ you if you don’t give them a treat. Scottish children have to perform to get anything at all. This could explain a lot.) Nonetheless, Halloween smells and feels like the gorgeous golden goo that my sister and I scooped out of its orange shell, while cats prowled and broomsticks swooped on the inner screens of our eye.

How to carve a pumpkin

Warning: don’t do this in your Halloween costume, unless being sticky is part of the intended effect.

1. Draw a circle around the pumpkin's stem for the lid. It's worth making a small notch in the circle to help you align the lid correctly when you replace it.2. Cut along the line. Point the knife towards the centre of the pumpkin at about a 45-degree angle. This stops the lid from falling into the pumpkin.3. Remove all seeds and pulp from inside the pumpkin and the lid. Scrape away at the walls with a spoon.4. Now draw your face.5. Cut along the lines. Use your finger to push the cut-out pieces out of the pumpkin.

Hooray! Done. Put on the doorstep and be proud.

Image: (cc) meaganmakes/ Flickr