As a young girl in Albuquerque, New Mexico I have always had vivid memories of Halloween. I love pumpkins and jack-o-lanterns and I remember the excitement of carving a pumpkin with my father. My brother and I would get to pick out our pumpkin in the giant cardboard bins outside of the grocery store. I seem to recall always being drawn to tall, skinny ones, the ones that seemed like they might not have been the first choice because they weren't perfectly symmetrical and round. The color was also really important to me, I wanted to find the pumpkins that had different shades of orange within it. What can I say, I was attracted to oddly-shaped pumpkins and had a tendency to anthropomorphize them (but I mean, come on, once you put a face on something how can you not?) When we got home, mom would lay down yesterday's newspaper down on the big oak table and my brother and I would draw our faces for our pumpkins out on paper and then onto the pumpkin. Dad would pop off the top and we would get to reach our hands inside the pumpkin to pull out it's insides. Then he would carve our faces in it. We'd light a candle inside of them, pop the top back on tilted so if something started burning our new pumpkin friends wouldn't ignite into an orange blaze. My mom and I would then toast the pumpkin seeds in the oven with some salt which is the featured recipe for today's post. As my sisters grew up, I took over the drawing and carving piece, as my dad became much more busy at work, and apparently I was steady-handed enough to wield our one large knife. This hasn't changed much in my older years except now my love draws the face and I carve it out. My only insistence for this one was that it have a happy face, and for some reason I also really feel the need to incorporate a gap tooth in my pumpkins so ta da!
A and I usually do the carving together every Halloween but this year I was home alone carving our pumpkin because she was at a work event and I am leaving tomorrow for Kansas for my Auntie's funeral. My Aunt Cynthia Perez Falcon passed away at the young age of 51 years old. She leaves behind a daughter, my cousin who just started taking college classes this semester and a son who is a sophomore in high school. This summer while I was doing research with my familia, I collected her oral history. I was struck by how much she balanced reflection on her past with what was in her future plans. At the time a mere two months ago, I never knew just how precious my request for her oral history would be. As I prepare for a trip down to Topeka, Kansas to pay my respects I've been thinking a lot about what I can pull from her own words as a way to honor her memory. I have become the keeper of these stories and I have the responsibility to share these words with her family. I know she would have wanted this from me. Forgive me for trying to work out some of the things I want to say about her here in my bloga. I think it is relevant as I have increasingly moved away from Halloween as the only holiday I celebrate into incorporating spiritual practices from día de los muertos. My Tía will be laid to rest on Saturday the 31st, and even though día de los muertos follows it directly where we honor our antepasados the 31st will forever remind me of my Tia's generosity, grace, love and joy in the world. She was an amazing woman, a friend and confidant, she would come and visit me while I was at college and even though we didn't get to see each other as often as I would have liked, every time we got together it was a comfortable meeting of two women. I will miss those comfortable times, my friend and my Tía, en paz descanses.
Now back to anthropormorphizing my pumpkin, after I ripped out her guts, I rinsed and dried my pumpkin seeds, this is from that big pumpkin! There is something to be said about the smell of a fresh pumpkin, there's nothing like it and carving one just brought back so many memories for me.
I separated my seeds into two bowls and had decided that I would use two different flavor profiles for my seeds. As you all know, spicy is my forte so I flavored one half of my seeds with some green chile powder from the Santa Fe Cooking School that the Lone Baker bought me and the other half with cayenne pepper. Yum Yum Yum.
Dress your seeds with about one half tablespoon of olive oil and salt them to taste and toss them to coat. Then add your other flavoring, of course this is to taste, as the more you use, the spicier it will be.
Lay out your deliciously coated seeds on a baking sheet as a single layer into a pre-heated oven set to 400 degrees for about 20 minutes. Enjoy some warm right out of the oven and to snack on throughout your Halloween or día de los muertos festivities with your loved ones.