As I do every year just before Halloween I bought some pumpkins. My heart wasn’t into it as much this time around, but who am I to break a lifelong tradition? I considered carving them into Jack-o’-lanterns, but that never happened. The smallest of the three succumbed early to rot. The other two sat on the porch quietly awaiting their fates. Would they, too, be food for the birds and critters?
Last week Jim asked about them, suggesting I actually process them and make a pie. It was a novel idea and not one I have not considered in the past. It did seem a waste to just let them sit around only to eventually be tossed out back into the compost pile.
On Saturday, I made the commitment and set to work cutting, gutting, cooking, puréeing, and freezing the smaller of the two still edible squashes. I figured the big one wouldn’t be as good for human consumption and frankly I don’t use a lot of pumpkin in anything to begin with. This was more a fun project than anything else. I ended up with 12 cups of home-processed pumpkin. Not a bad haul and easy enough to make.
As my mind is wont to do, it wandered off while all this was going on. It kept repeating that old nursery rhyme in my head, “Peter, Peter, Pumpkin Eater” to the point of turning into something more than a little disturbing.
Consider the whole rhyme for a moment:
Peter, Peter pumpkin eater,
Had a wife but couldn’t keep her;
He put her in a pumpkin shell
And there he kept her very well.
Peter, Peter pumpkin eater,
Had another and didn’t love her;
Peter learned to read and spell,
And then he loved her very well.
Seriously think about this.
This guy Peter, apparently a HUGE fan of pumpkins, can’t seem to keep his wife interested. His solution is to put her inside a pumpkin shell and keep her there. First off, that’s one big pumpkin. Second, how did she go about her domestic duties once put into this shell… or did she? He’s a known eater of pumpkins. He stuffs his difficult wife into a pumpkin. Does he then eat the pumpkin and possibly his wife in the process?
As I cooked my own pumpkins, I pondered this more times than is probably healthy. Maybe Peter was actually a cannibal! Maybe putting her into a pumpkin shell is the nice way of saying he butchered her, ala Mr. Todd and his lovely assistant Mrs. Lovett.
Which brings us to the next verse. The wife Peter stuffed into (and possibly ate) a pumpkin shell was apparently not his one and only. His second wife he was unable to love until he could read and spell (write). I get the feeling Peter was not a particularly bright man. Perhaps he envied this other wife’s education. I’m going to speculate she was pretty well off considering this poem is believed to have been first published around 1825, a time when well-read women weren’t quite so common as they are today.
After eating his first wife, Peter found another woman he admired. Unfortunately, she lived in a world above his. Maybe he was but a mere pumpkin farmer and felt he didn’t have a chance with this new woman until he could improve on his own education. So, Peter somewhere along the line learned to read and spell. Only then was he able to approach this new love with the confidence he needed. It never says if she loved him back, mind you. I would like to think she did, otherwise I’m guessing she, too, would have ended up on the dinner table.
All this because I decided to be frugal and not waste my pumpkins this year.
As Edgar A. Poe once wrote, “I am a writer, therefor I am not sane.” Yeah, I really think there may be some truth to all that. Do sane people think about Peter the Pumpkin Eater as a poorly educated pumpkin farming cannibal?
And yet people continue to ask where horror writers get their twisted and dark ideas from!
Oh, and by the way, enjoy your pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving!