Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Mangelantern-Wurzelantern

If that dog named Thor is faux
Mama's gonna bake you a Totoro
And if that Totoro lacks flavor
Mama's gonna carve you a rutabaga



Actually, Matt did the rutabaga and the one-eyed turnip. I did the turnip that looks like a droopy alien cow. At least, I think it does. The rutabaga puts me strongly in mind of the turnip head scarecrow from Howl’s Moving Castle.

The carving of the pumpkin is a critical Halloween ritual in this household, but sometimes more labor-intensive than is strictly desirable, especially when there are costumes to construct as well. Inspired by a post on Craft Magazine's web site about carving turnips, we decided last year to go small.

It turns out that rutabagas and turnips are quite easy to carve. You can hollow them with a melon baller and carve them with your favorite carving implements. One tool that I find particularly useful is a grapefruit knife (with serrations on both edges).

I was very pleased to not be faced with pumpkin seeds demanding to be cleaned and cooked. Of course, the root vegetable innards are edible, but much easier to prepare. You can make a tasty root vegetable puree in the same way you would make mashed potatoes, using whatever combination of rutabaga, parsnip, turnip, carrot and potato seems good to you.

For lighting, we knew that candles were right out, given the wee size of these lanterns. Small Christmas tree lights turned out to be a good solution here.

The next problem was display. While the turnips could technically have sat on the ground, the rutabaga couldn’t, and all the lanterns were too small to be effective at foot level. So we mounted them on dowels jammed into the tops of bamboo poles. We dropped large washers over the dowels to provide a flat resting place on the top of the pole. Voila! Shrunken heads.

The lanterns aged nicely, becoming more intensely charactered as they drew in on themselves. The happy Cyclops got happier, the droopy cow droopier and the scowling rutabaga fiercer. And since they were up on poles, the squirrels didn’t get to them – much.

Spurred on by our success, I can imagine we might host a root vegetable carving party next Halloween and plant a whole forest of lanterns.

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