Okay, full disclosure: before yesterday, I had never carved a pumpkin. Nor am I particularly crafty, for that matter: In eighth grade, my only B was in art class, due to what my teacher described as “a profound lack of craftsmanship … and also that one time when you threw your sculpture across the room.” But, I have celebrated Halloween at least sixteen times in my life (I can’t really account for Halloweens one and two; those years are kind of a blur), so I’m at least qualified to say that I appreciate the fine art of pumpkin carving. This year, I figured I’d try it myself. Here’s what I did:
Step 1: Cut the top off.
Using a knife, preferably one with a serrated edge, cut a hole in the top of the pumpkin. Keep in mind that at some point in the very near future, you’re going to need to stick your arm into that hole, so make sure it’s big enough! The hole that I cut was just large enough that I was able to get in and scoop the pumpkin guts out, but just small enough that it was super difficult and uncomfortable. If the same thing happens to you, do not try expanding the hole to make it larger, because you’re going to need to put the top back on later.
Step 2: Scoop the guts out.
You can do this with your hands, or you can do this with a spoon. I recommend a spoon, because … well, the picture pretty much sums it up. Also, once you’ve gotten almost everything out, a spoon will help you get rid of the last little bit.
Step 3: Outline your design.
There are several ways that you can do this. Because I’m a newbie, I used a “Pumpkin Carving Party Kit” that included templates for “sixteen different pumpkins that are fun for the whole family” (although if your family is so large that you need that many templates, I would imagine the producer of your reality show would just hire someone to carve the pumpkins for you). Basically, I put the template on the pumpkin and traced the black lines with a stencil so I could see where I was supposed to cut. However, you can also just draw a design with a washable marker, or if you’re feeling particularly confident, you can skip this step altogether and carve away.
Step 4: Start carving.
Once you have some semblance of an outline, you should be ready to get your carve on. Place the pumpkin face-up on the ground (or desk, or floor, or operating table, whatever you’re using) and make sure you cut vertically. Really stab that pumpkin, preferably with a Swiss Army knife or a kitchen knife; the more it terrifies you, the better it’ll work. Also, if you happen to be using a Pumpkin Carving Party Kit, do not use the knives they provide for you. You know how child-safe scissors can’t really cut anything that well? Apparently, the same principles apply to child-safe knives. Who knew?
Step 5: Clean up your pumpkin.
Congrats! The hard part is over. Now, take a minute to wipe off your pumpkin, recut any uneven lines, clean off the remaining pulp-boogers, etc. It’s like you’re at a spa, but it’s a spa for pumpkins.
Step 6: Put the top back on.
This one’s pretty self-explanatory. Just don’t forget to scrape the pulp off of the top first, because that would mess up all the excavation work you did earlier.
Step 7: Be proud of yourself.
Yay! You’ve just carved a pumpkin! Take a few moments to bask in the autumnal glory of your accomplishment. Even if it doesn’t come out perfectly, it’ll still be a pretty sweet room decoration. For the record, mine did come out perfectly … the uneven wings are a use of artistic perspective, duh. Totally intentional. Anyway, to make sure that your pumpkin lasts until Oct. 31 (or until the Peeps party, whatever your definition of “Halloween” is), you can slather on either petroleum jelly or vegetable oil, or you can also put your pumpkin in a refrigerator. Happy Halloween!