Like getting blood from a turnip: carving a turnip Jack-o’-lantern

by awindram

I never had a pumpkin Jack-o’-lantern at Halloween. In the 80s the full Tesco-ization of Britain had not yet been completed, and the range of fresh produce at our local Presto supermarket was certainly lacking by today’s standards. Indeed, all you could be really guaranteed of finding in a northern supermarket was turnip, cabbage and gruel (no sun-dried tomatoes or humus for us), and clearly a turnip makes for a better Jack-o’-lantern than a cabbage.

So this year I decided not to carve a pumpkin, but instead relive my childhood by carving a turnip instead. Admittedly this did make me look peculiar (well, a little more peculiar than normal) at an American pumpkin carving party, but once you explain that a turnip is the more tradition Jack-o’-lantern, your choice doesn’t seem quite so bizarre to others.

One important advantage of using a turnip instead of a pumpkin is you’re unlikely to find that the grocery store is out of stock with turnips due to high demand. I chose a rutabaga, as we call them turnips where I’m from (the North – we’re odd) and that’s what my Dad always used when making my Jack-o’-lantern. Disappointingly the only rutabagas I could find were pathetically small. Here it is looking rather pathetic next to a pumpkin.

Cut off the bottom of the turnip. This is where you’ll scoop the turnip and it will also make for a nice steady base for your Jack-o’-lantern.

A pumpkin is easy to scoop out, but a turnip requires real machismo. Fortunately, I can bench press a pony.

Of course, by the time you’ve finally managed scooping out the turnip you probably have little enthusiasm left for actually carving it. At least, that’s how I’m explaining this lackluster effort. This is a lot tougher than a pumpkin so if you’re inflicting a turnip Jack-o’-lantern on a child (perhaps a least favorite child who doesn’t get to enjoy a pumpkin like his or her siblings) then it’s probably best not to let them do this part (even a least favorite child shouldn’t be injured). It’s not fun, they’re not missing out on anything.

Yes, it really does look like the runt of the litter.

EDITED DAYS AFTER HALLOWEEN TO ADD THE FOLLOWING: It turns out that there is one significant advantage to turnip over pumpkin and that is that dealing with a rotting turnip is a far less squishy and icky experience than dealing with a rotting pumpkin.

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