Although Halloween (one of my favorite holidays) has not really infiltrated Iceland, there is an Icelandic word for it–hrekkjavöku–which appears to be a combination of hrekkja, (dirty)trick/practical joke and vaka, waking state. So Happy Day of Surreal Wakefulness in Which Dirty Jokes and Tricks Are Played on You, everyone!
Icelandic grocers obligingly make gestures toward this foreign holiday (and Thanksgiving) by stocking actual pumpkins about a week ahead of time. Canned pumpkin, interestingly enough, is a rather hot commodity–the American Expats in Iceland lists and facebook pages are peppered with messages from transplants searching high and low for it–but I’m told that shipments of that don’t make it to Iceland until mid-November at least.
There being actual pumpkins to be had, I was obviously not going to let Halloween pass completely unmarked this year. (As it just so happens I reside, at least figuratively, in a “most sincere pumpkin patch.”) So I dutifully examined many of the pumpkins on display in the Hagkaup, which were cleverly placed right near the entrance of the store (itself near the entrance of the mall). And I picked a very awesome pumpkin, let me tell you. The display itself was pretty excellent, too: not only did it teach me the above vocab word, it was also a model of sales efficiency. On one side of the pumpkin display there were bottles of spray-in neon temporary hair-dye; on the other were packages of fake makeup you can use to make gross wounds on your face and hands. Nothing else, though–no carving kits or cookies or other costume/decorative junk. Minimalist, really. The last perk I noticed was that whoever had set up the display had thought to stick a pair of rubber boots below the table, arranged at a wonky angle and covered in a red liquid that kinda looked like…food dye. Dangerous, scary things afoot at the Hagkaup! (Ha. Ha. Ha. Dangerous things afoot. I am hil-ar-ious. And I wasn’t even trying.) You unfortunately can’t see much besides the pumpkins in my pictures, so you’ll just have to take my word for it.
Anyhow, the question was whether we should carve or eat this ever-so-rare Icelandic pumpkin. I do love carving a pumpkin (and I didn’t get to last year–there was a blizzard then, interestingly enough), but if you carve a pumpkin you can’t eat much other than the seeds, and that seemed a bit wasteful. Also, my favorite part of pumpkin carving is actually not the face-making part–I’m not too good at that, honestly. My favorite part is the gut-scooping-out bit, where you pull out all the seeds and the ooey-gooey stringy parts. So I came to a solution that allowed me both the fun of pumpkin gut-scooping and also the deliciousness (and non-wastefulness) of pumpkin-eating.
I made this recipe, aptly named “Pumpkin Stuffed with Everything Good,” which was given to me a few years ago by my culinary-adventurer-buddy/literary comrade/former co-worker extraordinaire, Georgia. (Kudos and pumpkin points to you again for this one, Georgia! And for sending me the boxes of kitchen supplies which made cooking it so much more easy!) Our “everything good” in this instance included rice, pepper-jack cheese, apple, walnut, mushrooms, and…KALE! We found tiny beautiful bunches of kale sold in a health food store and I am just beside myself. (Kale! I’ve missed you!)
Whatever you fill it with, I suggest you all go out and get yourself a pumpkin and make this right now. I, myself, am going to go eat it.
A Gleðilega Hrekkjavöku to you and yours. If you’re not able to go trick or treating tonight because Hurricane Sandy hates fun, I do hope you’ll still be able to cuddle up and enjoy a Halloween movie or eat your weight in candy corn or something like that.