Apples and Pumpkins

“What is with Americans and apple cider? I don’t get it. Everyone seems to drink it at this time of year.” My friend D said the other day.

Warm apple cider...

Warm apple cider...

“Well, it’s delicious, and you can only get real apple cider in the fall. It’s seasonal… so I guess when cider is available people stock up!” I answered.

As noted previously, I currently live in New England and have spent most of my life living in the Northeast of the US where the leaves change color, the winters are long, and we take maple syrup very seriously (perhaps I’ll talk about this another day).

Growing up, autumn was always a great season… a time when you could pull out your sweaters and scarves to protect against the encroaching winter chill, but still run around outside under the red, orange and yellow leafed trees before the snow started falling and a bit of “cabin fever” set in. My childhood was filled with raking leaves (and jumping into piles of them!); going to the apple orchard to pick fresh apples to make apple crisp, apple pies, and apple sauce; picking just the right pumpkin from the pumpkin patch to carve jack-o-lanterns for Halloween; drinking fresh apple cider (especially hot cider on a cold day!); and last but not least eating Halloween candy, including one of my favorites–the mellowcreme pumpkins!

MellowcremePumpkins

Mellowcreme Pumpkins, only available around Halloween and Thanksgiving... Prajjwal thinks these are gross (much like I think his Hajmola digestive candy is gross) but I love these-- to each his own I guess!

The months of September and October are now quite busy with Nepali holidays, but it isn’t too busy to take time to enjoy some (Northeastern/New England) American culture as well. This includes boiling hot apple cider with cinnamon and drinking it by the mug full when it gets chilly outside… so when D wanted to know, “what is up with apple cider?” I promptly offered him a steaming mug. Luckily he enjoyed it.

Another fall tradition we enjoy is carving jack-o-lanternsand roasting the pumpkin seeds for a snack (see recipe HERE). I’m a little late this year, but tonight I picked up two pumpkins (for myself and AS) so that we can carve them on Friday night in time for Halloween. Which reminds me, while sipping hot cider with D a few nights ago, P was looking up random facts on the internet. One fact he noted while we were making dinner was, “did you know 90% of pumpkins are used for decoration?” (although, full disclosure, I couldn’t find this statistic again later on)

Pumkinpatch

AS and KS hunt for the perfect pumpkin.

“That must be an American statistic,” D said, “in Nepal we would never decorate with a pumpkin. People would eat it!” This reflected P’s recent thoughts on the topic as well.

Although P and I have carved a pumpkin or two every year for the past few years, starting with pumpkin carving on Halloween as a “cultural activity” for international students back in college, and although he always seems to enjoy it while we are doing the actual carving, lately he seems to think the process is a bit silly. His argument is– you spend $5 or more on a carve-able pumpkin, then you leave it outside until Halloween, and after Halloween it is all dried and gross, so you wouldn’t want to eat it. After Halloween there is nothing to do with it but throw it away. What a waste. (Perhaps he has also come to this conclusion because we bought our pumpkin really really early last year and it was a little moldy by Halloween?)

“We eat the seeds!” I point out, but P is not persuaded– “you spend so much for so little food.”

“It’s not about the food,” I explain, “it’s about the ‘ritual’ of it. Picking out the perfect pumpkin. Deciding how you want to carve it. Making your own creative (or maybe not so creative) design. Lighting it up for Halloween. It’s all part of it. You are paying for that too…”

ApplePicking

P and I do a corny pose at the apple orchard...

The other big event of the fall (besides the holidays of course) is the annual apple picking. This year we have been on the road a lot, so we might not get the chance to go (plus the weather is getting colder here more quickly this year, so it might shorten the season), but it’s a tradition to go to the apple orchard, and pick a large bag (or in my youth, a giant basket) of apples. Usually at the orchard you can get candy or caramel apples, apple cider (of course), and cider doughnuts. To fill you in on some “regional culture” according to Wikipedia, in parts “of the country where apples are widely grown, especially the Northeast and Midwest states, “cider donuts” are a harvest season specialty, especially at orchards open to tourists where they can be served fresh. Cider donuts are a cake donut with apple cider in the batter. The use of cider affects both the texture and flavor, resulting in a denser, moister product. They are often coated with granulated, powdered sugar or cinnamon sugar.”

Afterward the orchard visit you make lots of apple things (I’ll stick some recipes up here later), and eat apples until you grow kind of sick of them… but that is part of it too.

fall-leaves

Leaves changing color...

I’ve spent the fall away from the Northeast on several occasions before. I remember the autumn I was in Kenya, my paternal grandmother sent me some dried colorful maple leaves in the mail (probably breaking some sort of international law about sending foreign flora to another land, but she meant well). The leaves made me so nostalgic for home. If I ever leave the Northeast and live elsewhere or abroad, it will be one of the major things that I would miss.

So with that said, I wanted to wish you all a happy fall and a Happy Halloween!

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10 responses to “Apples and Pumpkins

  1. I just hate when the carved pumpkin left over for weeks gets mouldy from inside!

  2. My husband and I have a real difficulty over these kinds of food items that are used as decoration. Coming from a place where he has seen true hunger, he has a real distaste for the waste he seems as inherent. We once went to a wedding where the table centerpieces were huge heaping piles of (real) fruit – we were seated at the pineapple table and I thought his head was going to explode. He made me carry two pineapples home with us in my bag and we both suffered from too-much-pineapple acidity for weeks.

    • That is a really good point. P also doesn’t like to see waste, and I could definitely see him doing the same thing (taking pineapples from the table… then going over to the mango table and taking those for good measure as well!) I guess part of the thing that drives him crazy is that I make pumpkin pie but use canned pumpkin, but carve a pumpkin and don’t use it to its fullest food potential. I admit that it is wasteful, but for the sake of cultural traditions, I’m willing to sacrifice one or two pumpkins a year. And since I bought my pumpkin so late this year… maybe I should try making a pie out of the actual jack-o-lantern on Sunday… hmmm, lets see.

  3. Apple cider was actually good

  4. happinessandsimplicity

    I feel like composting our carved pumpkins when they get nasty is at least progress from when my dad would throw them into the road. We also compost all the guts and pieces of shell that were removed during the carving process. I guess we probably could cook all those pieces, even though it wouldn’t amount to much.

    I’ve actually never thought much about it, because pumpkin is such a rarely eaten food in America, in my experience. It never used to register as food in my mind.
    Now I know better, but I’m not willing to give up a tradition that brings my whole family together around one table to talk and laugh for a few hours.

  5. I usually make pumpkin soup when I carve up my jack-o-lantern. It’s wonderful with rice and super easy…just pumpkin, broth (you can use veggie broth), milk (or heavy cream if you want it to be really good) and whatever spices you like…I usually use curry powder, cumin, ginger, tumeric, cinnamon and the like. If you like pumpkin, I promise you’ll love it!!

    • mmm… that sounds really good. I might have to try that. I make a butternut squash soup in the fall, so I guess this would be similar, and maybe a little richer, depending on the spices used. Like I said, my pumpkin is a lot fresher this year than last year, so maybe I’ll try to make something out of it. I’ll let you know how it goes ;)

  6. Man, we have (store-bought) apple cider all year round in my household. SO good! I’m too lazy to bake ’em, but if we could have pumpkin-based products in the house all year round I’d be all over that too. :-D

    Growing up on the West Coast, I feel a little divorced from the typical “harvest” events you see here out East. We did go to a farmer’s pumpkin field every year to get our pumpkins as children, but there weren’t any apple-pickings or anything like that. And I feel so sorry for non-Californian children now that I’ve seen how cold it can get by late October. We never had to consider the warmth factor in our costumes…

    • Oh yeah… as a rule it always snowed at least once before Halloween. Every year we had to brainstorm how to make a winter coat work with our costume!

  7. CC, I love warm apple cider too.
    D: Congratulations on finally daring to try apple cider after almost five years of being in the U.S. :)

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