Halloween. Pumpkin food and tales
October 31st at 12:00am
Pumpkin and olive oil have their roots in myths and legends that reach us through the mists of time and are linked to enlightenment. The custom of creating illumination spread among the Celtic peoples of Ireland and Scotland. On the night of October 31st, burning coal was placed in carved out tubers such as potatoes, turnips or beets. This made them look scary enough to frighten away the souls of the dead believed to be wandering among the living. The lanterns carved in autumn vegetables became over the centuries a moral tale. A warning to behave well, or else end up trapped between two worlds. Such was the case of Stingy Jack protagonist of an Irish legend of the 17th century. For its dissolute life, he had been rejected by both heaven and hell. The devil gave him an ember for his turnip lantern to illuminate his eternal wanderings. In the 18th century, the tradition of lanterns carved from vegetables migrated to the new world and entered American literature, as a scarecrow with a pumpkin head or an evil Headless Horseman portrayed holding a flaming pumpkin lantern, a Jack o’ lantern. Pumpkins, very suitable for carving, have thus become the Halloween symbol of large parties and, at least in the United States, a symbol of being part of the community.
The olive tree and olive oil have also tied their history to myths and light. Athena, for example, was chosen by the Athenians as the city's protector in a competition against Poseidon for offering the most beautiful gift to the city of Athens. Poseidon offered a source of water. The goddess Athena offered an olive tree and won. That olive tree is the same one that we can still see in the Parthenon. Moreover, olive oil was so precious that it was offered to the winners of the Olympic Games. It was also sacred because its flame lit the lanterns of temples and later Byzantine churches.
Pumpkin must be sweet, oil must be bitter
Pumpkin is the main ingredient of autumn, which opens with the celebration of Halloween. The olive tree in the same season begins to give its fruit which will be consumed throughout the year and give the precious extra virgin oil nowadays consumed all over the world.
Oil and pumpkin are two very much different ingredients. Pumpkin is good when it is sweet because it is ripe at the right point, oil is good when it is a little bitter because only olives having a moderate level of ripeness produce an oil rich in precious polyphenols and other substances which are so important for health. But not to worry! The bitterness that can be distinct, and has to be so when tasting, disappears when the oil is combined with food. Indeed, when the olive oil is of high quality, it accentuates the taste without ever overpowering it. This also happens with pumpkin and the countless recipes you can prepare.
Hymn to Simplicity
You can try the simplest and healthiest recipe by grilling in the oven pumpkin cut in one centimeter slices, brushed with extra virgin olive oil, salted with coarse salt; when cooked, add a drizzle of raw extra virgin olive oil, pepper and, if desired, a sprinkle of oregano. A hymn to simplicity, a dish for the gods.