Cultura, Familia


A few years ago, Isa held a small pumpkin carving party. I didn’t mind her guests, as many were my friends too, but I wasn’t in to it. I arrived a few hours late sans pumpkin. I sat on the couch and watched as Gabby attempted to carve the Dodgers LA logo on her pumpkin. She gave up soon after. Isa had more success with her Jack Skellington pumpkin. The others spread out with newspaper and knives on the floor and tried to keep pumpkin guts and seeds off the wood floor.

That was the first — and only — time I’ve ever had the opportunity to partake in the Halloween tradition. Yes, that’s right. I’ve never carved a pumpkin or made a jack-o-lantern. I’m pretty sure the same goes for everyone in my immediate family.

I’ve come up with three reasons why we never carved pumpkins:

First, we liked pie more than we liked knives. I suppose at one point I was attracted to the idea of making a jack-o-lantern. But then mom started making delicious pies. There was no contest. Pumpkin pie >>> jack-o-lantern (that will begin rotting a day after Halloween).

Second, I doubt mom had the time to supervise four kids wielding pumpkin carving knives. She knew better. We were accident prone and sharp objects, no matter how kid-safe, meant about a 50% chance of making an ER trip. Plus, mom was busy sewing our Halloween costumes.

Third, we’re Mexicans. We weren’t poor, but my parents came from poor families. As a rule, we didn’t waste food. Rotten fruit? Cut off the rotten part, it’s still good enough to eat. If we’d eat questionable fruit, then why would we waste a perfectly good pumpkin? It didn’t make sense.


9 thoughts on “Calabazas

  1. I think your third point explains why I don’t see a lot of jack-o-lanterns in Mexican neighborhoods. They’re a waste, start rotting and stinking, attract animals, money wasted on something that could be eaten. I don’t remember ever carving a pumpkin. My first opportunity was last year, when there was a freshmen entryway pumpkin-carving contest. I looked at the pumpkins and thought of the waste.

  2. Chuckle. I just thought about this this weekend when my dearest revealed that she’d never in over 40 years carved a pumpkin. Fortunately for her, her first attempt was better than the gazillion I’ve done to date.
    As for the “we’re influenced by poverty, therefore we don’t waste” theory, it may work for others, but we were really poor and still managed to carve at least one a year (maybe it’s because we didn’t give out candy, buy much in the way of costumes, or otherwise spend on the day and my mom felt sorry for us).

  3. Are you kidding me, Cindy? We always carved pumpkins. Mami put aside the semillas and toasted them. We didn’t like calabasa, so threw the pulp away. Same went with the rest of my family.

  4. diana says:

    wow! We always carve pumpkins. Like Gustavo, we usually saved and roasted the seeds. However, none of our pumpkin went to waste. We didn’t usually carve it until the day before or that same afternoon, so that the pumpkin wouldn’t spoil.

    After we finished the trick-or-treating, my mom or dad cut up the pumpkin into chunks (they were really big pieces, so maybe i shouldn’t say chunks) Well then my mom cooked the pumpkin with piloncillo (i don’t know how to italicize that or how to say it in english) and water. The next morning we’d have the cooked calabaza with milk and brown sugar.

    Yum, I can’t wait until the day after Halloween!! I can’t be the only one who did this, right?

  5. Momo says:

    I’m with Gustavo and diana on this one: Halloween semillas. And, no, diana, you are not alone on the pumpkin pieces thing, my mom baked the pumpkin chunks once with sugar, but she never did it again… I actually don’t remember if I liked it or not.

  6. Soledadenmasa,
    I hadn’t thought about stray animals. Now that I really think about, an additional reason could have been that we were hardly ever at home on Halloween night. We always went to a Halloween fair at church. So, if we made a pumpkin, it wouldn’t even get to be displayed.

    Seems like your dearest is a natural.

    Oh, we ate the semillas. At least my dad, mom and grandparents did. I didn’t really like the seeds.

    You know, I have no idea how to translate piloncillo either.

    I knew I’d forgotten to write about the seeds.

  7. Carmen says:

    we always carved pumpkins too except i only watched or cleaned up cause my brothers always took over the planning, drawing, and actual carving, they only let me scoop.

    we did the pepitas too! and the dulce de calabaza which to this day is one of my favorite things to eat, my ma (from DGO) also cooked it and added milk and sugar we called it “colache” but mis primos from Jalisco called it “taninole” so i’m sure there are other names for it too, but it’s really good … ummmmmm !

  8. Okay, not that i read your post, I realize that I never carved a pumpkin either! I didnt even know that people did this until I had children! Last year we had a Halloween party for the kids and had pumpkin carving, i ended up carving both of my kids pumpkins since I was so excited! ::shame::

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