Monday, November 7, 2016

The Great Pumpkin

Whenever I get back to the States there is always some over-the-top thing that I get fascinated by. One trip it was the size of soda fountain drinks that one can get at gas stations, and the 2- foot straws that go with them. I brought a couple of straws back as curiosities for amazed and perplexed French folks. Even with the very long straw it was clear that they could not really visualize the size of the “cup” that straw fit into. In their minds, sort of a smallish barrel. On another long road trip it was the interstate billboards announcing what weaponry could be bought at the next exit’s gun shop. (I restrained from taking back any evidence of this fascination.) This fall the fascination and obsession was pumpkins.
You’ve probably noticed that my observations of American culture are being influenced by Continental life. In France a small drink is the size of a child’s sippy cup, a medium is reasonable, and a large would just about fill up an American small. Guns are in the background and certainly never spoken about. There are no billboards along the roads. Pumpkins are for eating.
The French shook me out of my single-minded perspective of pumpkins years ago. It happened during the fall that I spied jack-o-lantern type pumpkins at a nearby market. I excitedly bought 2 handsome specimen and brought them home. Two pumpkins that stood out from all the rest I had seen because they were tall, bright orange pumpkins. French pumpkins are squat, red, and there is no way to get a face carved into their deep curves.  Recruiting a couple of astonished French children we carved classic silly faces and carefully placed them on the window ledge to be lit for Halloween. We could hear murmurs as neighbors walked passed this unexpected site, but couldn’t make out anything specific. At some point I was outside as two plucky women were walking by. “What are you going to do with those pumpkins after Halloween?” I stared at them blankly for a few seconds and then replied, “Nothing.”  “Americans!” I heard them saying to themselves.They continued on their way. Slowly it surfaced in my brain that in France you do not waste food, to my French neighbors, pumpkin is a food and not a decoration. I was a heathen - well maybe all Americans are heathens….

Now that you have some background to my continental perspective on pumpkins I will get back to my thrill of the over-the-top pumpkins in the U.S. of A.

Summer was still holding on when I landed Stateside in the last week of September. Tress in Vermont were still sporting green leaves with just a hint of color starting to slide down the frost line on the mountains. But already there they were great heaps of pumpkins starting to appear for sale.

The first extraordinary sighting was at a grocery store in Iowa. Piles and piles of pumpkins ready to be selected for fall and halloween decorations -and it was just the 1st of October. All I could think of is what would a French person think seeing this. Just the sheer quantity and all these just at one store. To think that every store across the country would have a similar display!

The rest of the trip I was obsessed with capturing photos of the great pumpkin consumption wherever I saw heaps of them - or when I could get Tom to stop. (Given that there are comparatively fewer of them, he is much more likely to stop for a raptor alert.)

I have to say that I was exhilarated by the great quantities that I saw.  All I wanted to do was to stop and pick out a few and buy them. 
I about dropped down with laughter when my brother and nieces took me to The Great Pumpkin Patch. We made quite a detour to get there, and I was thinking “yeah yeah what’s the big draw”, and then there it was before me. What a hoot. Kids crawling all over the place, wheel borrows piled high with their carefully chosen to be jack-o-lanterns, and pumpkins jumbled all around an enormous field. 

 The best part about the great pumpkin patch was the absolute joy on everyones faces. Adults and children.

When I mention eating pumpkin to people in the States they  just look at me like I have six heads. The only pumpkin they have ever seen to eat is in a can and already spiced up. To mention eating it fresh I hear a yiiick - no way. To be fair I am not sure if one can eat “American” pumpkins. The one box I saw full of garden fresh pie pumpkins was being passed by with no takers.

Back in France the last few days of October I carved up the four pumpkins that Tom had carefully tended for me all summer long. Four perfect jack o lantern pumpkins. The immediate neighbors think I am nuts. I've decided I just don’t care. I found two little English girls to come over and help me with the carving and we had a grand time. They took two for their home and I kept two for the pillars of the gate to our home. The two little girls brought a gaggle over for treats on Saturday and then they arrived again on Sunday. To our great surprise two little boys and their dad visiting the family next door came by for a trick or treat. Neither the English nor the French knew to say “trick or treat” - they just stood at the door gapping at us, timidly holding their goody bags behind their backs. 
The day after Halloween is All Saints Day. Here they put chrysanthemums on the graves of their ancestors. Carpets of chrysanthemums. Don’t think they’ll last much more than a week….

1 comment:

Lynn said...

This is hilarious! I never thought of carving a pumpkin at our home in France. Now I Can't wait to shock them. Love the straws, too.