Jack-o-lanterns taught me to be cynical.
They also taught me to be creative—or maybe that was my dad.
He has a talent for carving goofy faces (especially eyeballs). Plus, he was always man enough to take care of the smelly goop.
Carving pumpkins was great fun (once I could safely unplug my nose).
But the horrific scene we always encountered on our sidewalk the next day forced me to recognize the futility of this tradition.
If we left our festive creations on the porch overnight, the neighborhood gremlins could never resist the opportunity to smash them.
After years of devastation, I don’t take any chances. This year, I didn’t just bring this pumpkin inside—I put it in the oven.
And then I smashed it myself. Not with a baseball bat (the weapon I always suspected was used on my poor jack-o-lanterns), but with a blender.
And instead of decorating the street with its bright yellow guts, I fed them to my family.
How to Cook a Pumpkin
To fully enjoy this adventure, I suppose you should grow your own pumpkin. I’m putting it on my bucket list.
Thankfully, it’s easy to find pumpkins at this time of year. And pie pumpkins (the smaller, sweeter variety) are pretty cheap at local orchards.
You can roast your pumpkin whole, just like I described for spaghetti squash.
I prefer to steam it in pieces because 1) I like to roast the seeds, 2) it’s easier to remove the nasty goop from a raw pumpkin, and 3) I can cook it in the oven, on the stove, or in the microwave (and therefore at home or in my dorm room).
First, cut the pumpkin in half (I recommend a knife that’s not very sharp but very toothy).
Then remove the seeds and set them aside.
Actually, the seeds should be washed before roasting, and they take a long time to dry.
So if you’re in a hurry, you might want to get them started right away.
Or find a hair dryer.
Scrape the inside of the pumpkin to remove all the squishy bits (a large spoon will do the job, but hard plastic works better than metal).
When your pumpkin is clean of goop, heat your oven to 350°F (177°C).
Or put a pot of water with a steamer basket on your stove to boil.
Or make sure your microwave is ready for a big job.
Remove the stem, and place your pumpkin in a microwave-, oven-, or stove-safe container with a lid—and a few inches of water.
Cook until the pumpkin flesh is soft. Depending on your method, this will take 30 minutes (microwave) to an hour (oven).
When the pumpkin is fully cooked, scoop the flesh into a bowl.
Use a blender or food processor for smooth puree.
Then the pumpkin is ready for whatever delicious creation you have in mind!
Now return to your seeds. If they’re still wet, you can grab a hair dryer— or wait till tomorrow (I recommend you blow dry them in a colander—otherwise, you’ll be picking them up all over your kitchen).
Coat a baking sheet with whatever oil you prefer.
Spread the pumpkin seeds out evenly.
Sprinkle with seasonings (I like salt best), and roast at 325°F (163°C) for ten-minute intervals.
Stir the seeds every ten minutes, and return them to the oven until they’re golden and crunchy. Add more seasonings, if necessary. (Yep, that means you have to taste them every time!)
Now come up with something fun to do with that empty shell, and you’ll have used the entire pumpkin!
It’s better than letting some hoodlum destroy your work of art.
And it’s better than watching your beautiful jack-o-lantern rot in the safety of your home.
More than that, it’s a fantastic way to enjoy fall and celebrate the harvest!