I’ve never really cared about Halloween. Until I moved to Germany, that is. Here, I seem to love all those American things I didn’t really have much interest in before. Carving pumpkins, dressing in ridiculous costumes, making pumpkin pie.
To be fair, pumpkin pie is something that I’ve always loved. To play devil’s advocate for myself, my mother always made pumpkin pie from fresh pumpkin. Which is, I don’t think, very American.
Pumpkin pie made with real pumpkin is not like typical pumpkin pie. It’s custardy, with an almost vegetal undertone and a sweet, earthy hit of cinnamon. None of this creamy, creepy rust-colored goo, real pumpkin pie is bright orange and textured with scraps of shaved pumpkin.
Naturally, the only course of action available to me was to organize a pumpkin carving soiree.
So last Friday, my roommates and I chilled some wine, pulled the extensions out on the table, and bought two big, beautiful pumpkins. (OK, they were from the bottom of the barrel… all the good ones were already gone – but we loved them nonetheless.)
Being the only veteran pumpkin carver, I oversaw the operation, but to tell the truth, I don’t think I actually scraped a single bit of pumpkin flesh from the shell or cut out a single eye. Not that it mattered – for me, it was enough to know that it was being done.
I spent the evening making edible things from our pumpkins. Roasting seeds with olive oil and salt to an addicting crisp, turning scooped-out handfuls of pumpkin into spicy curried pumpkin-coconut soup – and making pie.
Can I tell you how lovely it is to sit around a table by candlelight, hands greased with pumpkin guts, sipping white wine from juice glasses and laughing with friends? What it is to eat together?
I’ve been living in Berlin for a little over a year now. Last year at this time, I was sitting at a kitchen table alone, just about to spill a drink into my laptop and break it. Not that life was bad. It was just a new thing.
Carving pumpkins this Halloween, eating with friends – I can’t help but look back on this past year and think about how blessed I am to be here and to have met the people I have. How beautiful it is to be this heartbreakingly happy.
Granted, it’s not just carving pumpkins with other people – or making pie for them – that makes me so happy, but it’s a part of it.
For the crust:
2 cups flour
2/3 cups vegetable oil
1/3 cup milk
pinch of salt
For the filling:
2 cups raw pumpkin, scraped from inside of the pumpkin
1 cup milk
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg (opt.)
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 tbsp melted butter
For the crust: Blend flour and salt. Add vegetable oil and milk and whisk ingredients together. When the dough starts to come together, use your hands and quickly knead it into a ball. You may have to add more vegetable oil for the dough to stick together. Conversely, if the dough is too wet, add more flour.
Press dough into a 9-inch pie dish. You may have extra dough – set it aside for another use (or a mini-pie!). Place your pie crust to the side.
Pre-heat oven to 400 F.
Place raw pumpkin in a medium pot and add 1 inch of water. Turn heat to medium-low and steam pumpkin until cooked through (about 10 minutes). (If you haven’t just carved a Jack-o-Lantern and don’t happen to have shaved raw pumpkin, you can roast pumpkin cubes in the oven and, when cooked through, mash them with a fork to get the right consistency.) Drain any juice from the cooked pumpkin – you should have approximately 1 1/4 cups of cooked pumpkin. Don’t worry if it’s not exact – pumpkin pie isn’t a science.
To your cooked, drained pumpkin, add milk, sugar, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg (optional), beaten eggs and melted butter. Stir all ingredients together until well-blended.
Place pie in the oven and bake until set. Depending on your oven, this should take about an hour.