Footloose and Footstools…
Miss Parker, my fourth grade music teacher, was really cool. She sported tiny, oval-shaped, gold-rimmed glasses, had long, straight dark hair, and played acoustic guitar as accompaniment to our singing. This was 1973, so it was all perfect.
For a project, she asked us to write a Halloween Song. My mother and I came up with this:
There was a pumpkin round and fat
His name was Jack-o-lantern.
Come, and light him up,
Come, and light him up,
Come, and light him up
And have a Happy Halloween! (Sung to the tune of B-I-N-G-O.)
We earned a gold record—I mean a gold star—for this hit.
That same year, my mother purchased for our home library an abridged, two-volume set of the Oxford English Dictionary, compact, and complete with a little drawer set in the top of case that held a magnifying glass. She told me when she looked into the word “pumpkin,” she learned the word origins came from words meaning “footstool.” We both thought that was just charming.
And it sure is “footstool” season! A full collection of shapes, sizes, colors and textures are available for sale at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church on the White Horse Pike in Haddon Heights. These “footstools” drove their way to us cross-country from a reservation in New Mexico; the sale is supporting their work as well in addition to our fundraiser. It was a whole bunch of fun last Saturday afternoon when we formed a bucket-brigade line with help from our local Scout Troupe to them off the tractor trailer rig. Over one thousand in all. Tiny to tall, round and fat of course, striped and warty. Gourds, too. On sale daily from 1:00pm until 7:00pm until Halloween when the staffing may themselves turn into pumpkins….
What to do with these? This designer says:
First of all, for a pumpkin stack, which is one of my very favorite ways to decorate, and especially perfect for the more disc-like pumpkins who have lost their stems. Be careful with your proportions and create a stack of three because three is lovely harmony, creates unity. Mix up the color combinations too, if you like, and tie a simple, single bow at the top like a leaf tendril. A good way to divert the squirrels from taking a bit out of your porch display, spray with Bitter Apple, available at pet supply stores.
Another really fun way to use pumpkins is as a floral center piece. Mums, sunflowers, greens and leaves of all kinds look great inside a pumpkin. I like a bit of ivy draped gracefully over the top and the dark, glossy-green of the ivy is the perfect compliment. For double duty, keep your “footstool” on the porch until Thanksgiving and then re-purpose for the table arrangement. As long as the weather stays cool, the pumpkin should stay solid until December. To make the arrangement, cut a lid out of the top off the pumpkin, clean out the seeds and membranes, spray the cut surfaces with cooking spray, and then insert a vase or glass vessel into the pumpkin into which you will put some oasis or water, then the cut flowers.
Candle holders. I like to use the tiny pumpkins for this and set them up in a row on the fireplace mantle or along the front porch railing, securing with a dab of museum tack. Votives, the kind with the aluminum holders, work great for this. Again, cut the tops off to the size of the candles, spray cut surfaces with cooking spray, and insert candles.
Most importantly is the best thing about pumpkins: eating them. They are rich with anti-oxidants and vitamins A, E and C. I think the easiest way to cook a pumpkin is roasting. By this method you don’t have to peel it until after roasting which is a neater, easier, and way less tedious. Start with a 400-degree oven, convect bake option if you have that. Cut pumpkin into uniform, 2” chunks and place on a slightly oiled pan. Cleaning out the seeds and cooking those is option, if you feel like it. Roast for 30 minutes, then check for doneness with a skewer. Roasting concentrates the flavor as the water will cook off. Once tender, let them cool. Then the rind/peel will easily cut off. Puree in a food processor or blender for use in soup, muffins, cakes and breads. It freezes really well, for use all winter.
Footloose this weekend with time on your hands? I hope to see you at the Pumpkin Patch.